Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Have Carbondale and SIU hit bottom? SIU vs. Ford

A friend of mine, recently told me that he feels that both Carbondale and SIU have hit bottom. In other words, they will only go up from here.

When thinking about Carbondale, clearly things are better then they were 4 years ago. Not perfect, but better. Hopefully, Carbondale will look back and see the absolute bottom of the long and slow slide to meritocracy, as the day before Brad Cole took office. I don't know if the city will continue to improve, but clearly Brad has added some much needed discipline to the city government. The results show everyday.

I was reading about Ford's new CEO yesterday in Business Week and was thinking how much his task resembles Poshard's task at SIU. In the article they are going over the new CEO's review of the Ford Focus,
When Mulally was reviewing the company's 2008 product line last September, for example, he was told that Ford loses close to $3,000 every time a customer buys a Focus compact, according to one executive. "Why haven't you figured out a way to make a profit?" he asked. Executives explained that Ford needed the high sales volume to maintain the company's CAFE, or corporate average fuel economy, rating and that the plant that makes the car is a high-cost UAW factory in Michigan. "That's not what I asked," he shot back. "I want to know why no one figured out a way to build this car at a profit, whether it has to be built in Michigan or China or India, if that's what it takes." Nobody had a good answer.
This sounds just like the way the bureaucracy at SIU tries to defend their problems. Is CAFE at Ford, equal to minority recruitment at SIU? Sometimes, just because you have always done things a certain way, isn't good enough.

Another selection from the BW article,
Just eight months into the job, Mulally is working hard to change institutional work habits that took years to develop. He wants managers to think more about customers than their own careers. He has made it a top priority to encourage his team to admit mistakes, to share more information, and to cooperate across divisions. He's holding everybody's feet to the fire with tough operational oversight and harsh warnings about Ford's predicament. "We have been going out of business for 40 years," Mulally told a group of 100 information technology staffers at a "town meeting" in February. He has repeated the message to every employee group that he has addressed.
I really think that SIU needs to look at the phase from this section carefully, "We have been going out of business for 40 years." Have all the mechanisms of SIU's bureaucracy been built on layers of a downward spiral like at Ford? Has SIU been going out of business since the end of the Morris Golden Age?

I don't know if SIU has turned around, but I can see Glenn Poshard, trying to make the right moves, to get it going the right direction. I can also see he is fighting the layers of incompetence and sloth that make up SIU's management layers and workers.

The good news for Ford is that it will go out of business very soon, if they don't fix things. The good news for SIU is that it will die a slow and painful death if they don't fix things. As we see SIU's enrollment and revenues go down, when will the people working at SIU realize they are facing a crisis? At Ford,
After losing $12.7 billion last year, it had to endure the indignity of pledging its factories, headquarters, and the rights to the iconic blue oval logo to the banks and bondholders just to get enough money to finance its turnaround plan. Those were all tough steps. But these are tough times for the U.S. auto industry.
You wonder, when it will hit SIU, it is fighting for its continued existence? Will it be the first layoff of tenured faculty? Clearly, the layoffs of massive numbers of instructors this Summer hasn't even make the local papers, so it can't be very important. Kind of reminds me of the old poem,
First they came for the Socialists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left
to speak up for me.
Where I think that SIU has the best President they could have right now, I don't think this has to be the bottom, things can get much worse. Hopefully, this is the bottom and things will get better from here, but turning around Carbondale is a much smaller task. When you are saying your prayers at night, you might include a word for Glenn Poshard on his quest, your job might be riding on it.

I'm almost done here in Carbondale, but I thought I would leave you with this happy thought. If you work at SIU, it can get worse. It might be time to start to care and take part in the solution.

Of course, your comments are welcome.


Anonymous said...

Good analysis and analogy. Your reference to the "Morris Era" and the relationship of institutional memory to SIU-Cs future as per Glen Poshard is spot on. Reality has eluded many of those who have collected a check while "working" SIU for far to long.


Milton said...

One of your better posts Peter.