Executive Times

Volume 4, Issue 9

September, 2002


ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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Do I Hafta Go to School?

A business school professor told us a long time ago that he got into considerable trouble with his university administrators when he told a group of parents of incoming MBA program students that one thing alone would make these future graduates attractive to employers upon graduation: they would be a few years older, and possibly more mature than they are now. That sage professor understood that time can be the best teacher. Another friend who obtained a law degree with no intention of ever practicing said that professional degrees are today’s version of the union card: a minimum requirement for certain jobs. Recent studies and articles have called attention to the formation of business executives and whether or not these programs are doing a good job. This month’s cover article calls attention to some of these stories, and encourages readers to reflect on learning, courses, and the building of skills and character. There are comments about ethics programs, laws, rules, and corporate training programs. As you read these stories, think about your own approach to learning, and how you’ve formed yourself as an executive. Think about ways to fill in the gaps in your education, and how to expose others in your organization to the learning they could use to grow and develop.


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5, most of which contain three-star recommended ratings. One book is rated DNR (Do Not Read), and two books receive one-star ratings. Turn ahead to check those out. If you’ve forgotten what the stars stand for, you can visit our 2002 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 2002 book reviews.


Tap the Keg
A story came across the AP wire (8/25) (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-0208270268aug27.story?coll=chi%2Dbusiness%2Dhed) that two researchers at Stanford’s business school will publish an article this month in a new periodical called the Academy of Management Learning and Education. They ask the question: do you learn anything in business school?  The bottom line answer: not much. “Surveying decades of research, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Christina Fong argue that, with the possible exception of the most elite programs, master's degrees in business administration teach little of real use in the business world. They say the degree has little effect on salaries in the long run.” It’s a good thing that other studies have shown that beer is good for you because “the researchers cite one report that characterizes life at one top business school as a two-year-long networking and bonding ritual revolving around alcohol.” Where do you sign up? Even critics of this article conclude it raises some important questions and issues. Once the article is published, members of the Academy of Management can access it at http://www.aom.pace.edu.


What did you learn in business school, if you went there? Was what you learned of any real use in your business life? When you evaluate job applicants with business degrees, what expertise do you expect the person has achieved? Can you rely on an institution of higher learning to train people to be effective in your organization?


Bring On the Law
One prescription for changes in business school curricula came from University of Texas business law professor Robert Prentice in an op-ed in The New York Times (8/20) (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/20/opinion/20PREN.html?todaysheadlines). Prentice claims that business schools have replaced law courses with ethics courses that students consider “hortatory rather than mandatory.” Considering that even the most miscreant executives think that the actions they took were right, but turned out to be illegal, Prentice may have a point. Prentice said, “business law professors should explain to students that legal requirements are not optional. Such requirements enable our free-enterprise system to function — and disobedience carries a personal as well as a societal cost. My colleagues and I must tell this story more forcefully than we have in the past. But to do so we need a more prominent forum in the business schools of America.” This leads to the question about which laws are studied, and whether the rules are too complicated for anyone to master consistently. Walter Wriston, former Citigroup chair, wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (8/5) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1028501401933854520.djm,00.html) that voluminous accounting rules have led to the question, “Is it legal?” rather than “Is it right?” Unlike the wordy and complicated approach of FASB, Wriston comments that the International Accounting Standards Board, “has just 34 standards, and instead of thousands of pages, most are expressed in memos of a few dozen pages.” Most of us want a business environment where decisions are both legal and right.

How do you master the rules for making decisions within your organization? How do you achieve understanding of the appropriate laws? How much does fear of the law affect your decisions? When competitors behave in ways that comply with the law, but take action that you consider wrong, do you match their behavior, or hold firm to your beliefs?

Is There an Ethicist in the House?
If there is, you may want to show him or her the door. We’ve long been suspicious of corporate training programs, especially the mandatory ones. While some convey basic information, few lead to any changes in behavior. One area we’ve been skeptical about has been the implementation of ethics codes in companies, and the training programs about conduct that usually occur. The courses that feature executives telling stories about tough decisions usually rate high in our opinion. The ones taught by ethical “experts” leave us cold. We were pleased to read an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1027991654743763960.djm,00.html) from philosophy professor, Gordon Marino, who asked the question, “where are the ethics experts when you need them? Almost every pundit in the country has pontificated on the breach of trust in the corporate world but, strangely enough, hardly a peep has been heard from the business ethicists. More importantly, why weren't the maestros of morality able to help avert the current moral debacle? Why weren't the ethics auditors on Wall Street able to sniff out the rather obvious fact that there was something morally amiss with the way relationships were developing between auditors and audited?” Marino says executives can’t subcontract the work of moral reflection, and “CEOs do not need a business ethicist to tell them right from wrong. What they need is the character to do the right thing, which is to say, the mettle to avoid the temptation to talk themselves out of their knowledge of right and wrong even if that knowledge lowers their profit margins.”

Do you communicate your judgments about right and wrong to others within your organization? Are there experts you reply on when it comes to corporate conduct? What value do those experts add?


Did you Lego Today?
We admire the people at Lego Group for finding ways to extend their product reach, but when we read in The Wall Street Journal (8/16) (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB102943951112095835.djm,00.html) about the increased use of the company’s colorful building blocks in executive training programs, we were more than a bit bemused. The company formed a unit called Executive Discovery earlier this year, selecting Vanderbilt University management/business ethics professor Bart Victor as CEO. They market a product called “Serious Play” and train consultants how to use Legos with executives. More surprising to us is that this venture faces competition in the executive toy arena. “IDEO, a Palo Alto, California-based design consulting firm, has been using Legos for 10 years. It charges companies $60,000 for two-day sessions at which executives build hats, houses and other things using colored wooden blocks, rubber bands and Legos.” We’re ready to pick up our blocks and get on the road.


Do you think toys are good training tools for your organization? When can we call you for a play date? Have your checkbook handy.


Job Satisfaction

How Do Workers in Your Organization Measure Up?
The Conference Board issued their latest survey of job satisfaction in late August (http://www.conference-board.org/search/dpress.cfm?pressid=4728). According to the survey growing numbers of American workers are unhappy at work. About half those surveyed said they were happy at work, down from 59% in 1995, and about the same as reported two years ago. Only one in five workers was happy about their company’s promotion policies and two in five were happy with their wages. The biggest drop in overall satisfaction was from 60.0% to 47.4%, among 35-44 year olds. The most dismal part of the country is New England, where satisfaction dropped from 65% in 1995 to 56% in 2000, to 44% this year. Our favorite quote came from a worker in Denver, “I'd like to be more active. I'd like to have more say. I'd like to feel like I had more power. I'd like to feel like I was more in control.”

What makes workers in your organization more or less happy than workers at other organizations? How important do you think employee job satisfaction is to your organization? Do you care? Do you measure it? How much control do workers have over their jobs in your organization? What changes could you make to improve overall job satisfaction?




Here are selected updates on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:

Ø      We advised readers of the September 1999 issue of Executive Times, to take a pass on Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market, a book by James Glassman and Kevin Hassert. The authors returned in an August 1 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1028159861587125680.djm,00.html) trying to restate their fundamental case from the book that stocks are improperly valued. There’s still no compelling reason to read their book.

Ø      In the July 2002 issue of Executive Times we asked readers to watch for the results of the stockholder revote on the planned move of Stanley Works from Connecticut to Bermuda. You can stop watching. The company decided not to move after all. In an August 1 press release (http://www.stanleyworks.com/a_news_080102.htm), the company said, “Congress has started down a path to deliver comprehensive tax reform that would eliminate the inequities of U.S. international taxation and thereby accomplish Stanley's original and continuing goal.” Now it’s time to watch what Congress does.

Ø      The story of the Princeton dean who hacked into the Yale admissions system reported in the August 2002 issue of Executive Times continues to unfold. The AP wire on August 13 said Princeton completed an internal investigation, and the errant dean will be reassigned, and an unrelated resignation will take place.




Chances are that you’ve eaten at one of his clubs, or played golf on one of his courses. You’ve probably had a good time. That’s not how Robert Dedman wanted to be remembered, although if you’ve liked the improvements at Pinehurst since 1984, he was the one to thank. The “King of Clubs” who founded and grew ClubCorp, Inc. into the manager of hundreds of private clubs and golf courses worldwide wanted to be remembered as a giver. He will. At the time of his death in late August at age 76, his name appeared at his alma mater, Southern Methodist University, on the law school, the life sciences building, the liberal arts college and the rec center. He was also a benefactor to the University of Texas, Florida State University, and countless other organizations. We read in one obituary, “In a speech in 2000 promoting his book ‘King of Clubs,’ Mr. Dedman said success depended on attitude. ‘You have to have the right attitude,’ he said. ‘We must enjoy life and get all that we can out of it because it may be the only chance we get.’” Dedman enjoyed life by helping others, and thanks to his business success and philanthropy, many people will benefit from his significant legacy.

Another entrepreneur and philanthropist died in late July, leaving at least one particular monument as a memorable legacy. Harry Quadracci, founder of Quad Graphics, the giant magazine printer, died in an accidental drowning in late July at age 66. Thanks to the $10 million contribution that he and Betty Quadracci made to the Milwaukee Art Museum, a capital campaign of ten times that amount was raised, and the first Santiago Calatrava-designed building in the United States became the new wing of that museum, appropriately named the Quadracci Pavilion.


Latest Books Read and Reviewed:

 (Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com.  When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com.  Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2002 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/bookshelf.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


Class Action

Bingham, Clara and Laura Leedy Gansler

Mesmerizing story about a hostile work environment at Eveleth Mines in Minnesota, a landmark lawsuit, and the behavior of all participants.

The Bondwoman’s Narrative

Crafts, Hannah

Proposed by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as the first novel written by a black woman. Female slave describes life from a point of view only another slave could know.

The Monk Downstairs

Farrington, Tim

Blooming romance develops between ex-monk and his landlady. Written well with good dialogue and perfect plot momentum.


Fry, Stephen

Fry delves deep into human nature exploring love, betrayal, alienation, friendship, recovery and, of course, revenge.

The Last American Man

Gilbert, Elizabeth

Eustace Conway wants us all to join him in a return to nature. Read about this charismatic, unique and hard-to-get-along-with man.

The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island

Greenlaw, Linda

Well-written stories of interactions with close and distant relations, fellow lobster catchers, neighbors and outsiders.

Moral Hazard

Jennings, Kate

Novel stretches from glimpses of life as Wall Street speechwriter for buzzword-afflicted executives to caring for sick husband.

F’d Companies: Spectacular dot-com flameouts

Kaplan, Philip J.


Superficial chronicle of stupid things companies did by author with juvenile potty mouth writing style.

The Secret Life of Bees

Kidd, Sue Monk

Richly written first novel set in South Carolina-1964, full of love, loss, grief, friendship, and the coming of age of a young girl who finds mothers who love her.

The Paris Option

Ludlum, Robert and Gayle Lynds

Another suspenseful Covert-One thriller in which agent Jon Smith saves America from terrorists, with the help of familiar friends.

Martin Sloane

Redhill, Michael

Well-written portrait of an artist: his recent life; formative years; a lover’s search for him.

CIA, Inc.: Espionage and the Craft of Business Intelligence

Rustmann, Jr., F.W.

Primer on the do’s and don’ts of engaging in corporate intelligence gathering, including some shady recommendations that should be avoided.

The Lovely Bones

Sebold, Alice

Well-written, haunting first novel narrated by murdered adolescent from a memorable heaven and visits to earth.

The Count and the Confession

Taylor, John

Tedious chronicle of true crime story with characters that are stranger than fiction, unlikable and behave in most unusual ways.

The Bureau and the Mole

Vise, David A.

Detailed description of FBI agent and spy Robert Hanssen, and how Louis Freeh lost his job as FBI director.


ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC.  Executive Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the company’s office at 723 North Kenilworth Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60302. Subscription rate for first class mail delivery of the print version is $60.00 per year (12 issues). Web version subscriptions are $30.00 per year. Single issues: $10.00 print; $5.00 web. To subscribe, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html, send an e-mail to executivetimes@hopkinsandcompany.com, call (708) 466-4650, or fax to (708) 386-8687. For permission to photocopy or e-mail Executive Times, call (708) 466-4650 or e-mail to reprints@hopkinsandcompany.com. We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/archives.html contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date. 

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