Interview with Douglas Anderson
Douglas D. Anderson is excited to be back at Utah State in the position as dean of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business and is grateful for the opportunity to repay the debt he incurred from USU for helping him achieve success in his career. He shared his anticipation of assuming his new role, which officially began July 1.
What future do you envision for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business and for your role as dean?
I see an incredibly bright future for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business . The college has an outstanding faculty; bright, engaging, and energetic students; and wonderfully loyal and proud alumni. But we need to stretch to achieve our full potential. I believe in some ways we have been "playing smaller than we are." To capture the possibilities that are before us, we must raise our sights. The vision for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business will arise out of a vigorous and extensive process of dialogue with all of our stakeholders. As dean, I intend to facilitate that dialogue and engage us all in the question of direction, aspiration and stretch. The mission–to elevate our game–will require the best efforts of many leaders inside and outside the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business . I have no doubt we will succeed.
Have you noted many changes at Utah State over the years?
I am more impressed by what has remained constant over time than by the changes. You cannot step on this campus without being overwhelmed by the sheer physical beauty of its setting. What a wonderful place to study and to learn! I remember as an undergraduate walking to and from campus to my parent’s home down on the Island. I would look out over the south end of the valley and think that this was just the greatest place in the world to go to college. And it still is! You cannot find a friendlier campus. The connection between students and faculty is first–rate, and there is this amazing sense of possibility that permeates the atmosphere.
What do you consider the role of a university?
The central role of a university–its noble purpose–is to prepare women and men to lead lives of contribution and productivity in society. But education is not something that is "done" to students. For our students to realize the full potential that USU has to offer them, they need to "own" their own education. They must regard it as a priceless asset and make it work for them. I came to Utah State as a sophomore transfer from Stanford University, a great institution where I had had a wonderful experience. Many of my new friends and acquaintances in Logan asked me, "Why would you transfer to Utah State?" I thought about that for a while and realized that the only honest answer was, "to get a better education." At the same time I realized if that were to become true, it would largely be up to me to make it so. I have never regretted my choice to come to USU. The resources were all here for me then–and they are even more available now–but the choice to dream, to excel, and to achieve is something that has to come from within.
What will be your goals for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at USU?
A business can’t succeed if it doesn’t serve its niche. Everything we do at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business should enrich our core constituencies in some fashion. If we are not serving our current students, alumni and friends, if we are not helping our faculty, and staff to be more productive or enabling our community to grow, we will not receive the resources we need to flourish. From a substantive point of view, business education exists to serve a profession and to create professionals. We have a body of knowledge to impart, the responsibility to contribute to the discovery of new knowledge, and the right and responsibility to certify students as having mastered that knowledge. But, as important as these tasks are, even more vital is our responsibility to elevate the profession of management by contributing to the development of men and women of integrity and good judgment.
I remember a conversation I had once in a consulting context with Ralph Larsen, then chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson. I asked him what he valued most in the leaders in his company. It was obvious he had thought about the question. "Three things," he said, "in ascending order of importance."
At the invitation of the senior partners of Price Waterhouse U.S. and Europe, he served as chairman of the PWE/PWUS Task Force on Governance and has led many workshops in Europe, Asia and North and South America for the partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers. He has also taught for many other CED clients including General Electric, IBM, KPMG, Merrill Lynch, United Technologies, Banker’s Trust and the United States Postal Service.
"The first is performance. We make promises to deliver a certain level of performance, and we keep our promises. It’s really important to us. But we give our people a lot of support in making our numbers–tools, coaching, mentoring, and the chance to grow.
"The second is good judgment. We are a highly decentralized company. We can’t go around checking up on everybody all the time. You can make a mistake but learn from it. Don’t make the same dumb mistake twice."
"But even more important than good judgment, is integrity or trust. You violate our trust bond, and you are history," he said. "We don’t give second chances to people who lie, cheat, and steal."
I have thought a lot about what Ralph Larsen taught me. Performance is important, but good judgment is even more important. And most important of all is integrity. I think that’s not a bad way of thinking about how we should train and develop our graduates to enter and contribute to the profession of management.
The faculty and students began the year reading The World is Flat, by Tom Friedman. What do you think of his point of view?
Friedman says that the world has become flat or "connected" by virtue of changes in technology and globalization. I’ve witnessed the amazing changes of a "shrinking world" in my own career. We like to say that the firm we founded, the Center for Executive Development (CED) in Boston, was "virtual before virtual was cool." With the ease of air travel, the invention of the Blackberry and the availability of the Internet, it is possible today to do business globally while living in Cache Valley. In a recent week, for example, I spent Monday through Wednesday leading a 3–day strategic thinking workshop for partners of a Big 4 accounting firm in Chicago. On Thursday, I was interfacing with my Boston colleagues and clients in Europe from the computer in my home office in Salt Lake City. On Friday, I attended the Board of Trustees meeting in Logan where my appointment was approved, and Saturday I was back in Chicago accompanying President Albrecht and his wife, Joyce, at an alumni event. I was home in time for brunch on Sunday. Wherever I was, I was connected with partners and clients around the world via the email messages on my Blackberry. It is a flat world. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if we are not smarter, better educated, and work better together our new competitors from outside the US will eat our lunch.
One of the clients of our firm, Lee Iacocca, understood this very well, before most. In 1988 he asked us to help Chrysler establish a "world class" executive development center. When we met to talk about its design, he told me that he had recently returned from a trip to the Far East–to Korea–where he had met with young managers at Samsung. He came away deeply impressed by what he saw. As he related it, he said, "Back in the 1960’s we had technology, and they didn’t; we had scale, and they didn’t; we had capital, and they didn’t; we had market access and distribution, and they didn’t. Today, they have all of those things. The only differentiator left for us is the quality of our people. If we can’t beat them with our people, we can’t beat them!" What Lee understood was that we live in a knowledge economy. Even basic manufacturing is knowledge driven. So unless we make the proper investments in our young people and equip them with the skills, knowledge, insight, and values they need to be competitive, we are going to lose our edge as the world’s leading economy. Our wealth enables us to afford many things; but it cannot afford us the luxury of falling behind in the war for talent. That’s why this university’s mission and the mission of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business is so vital. It’s a great opportunity, but it’s also a sobering challenge.
What do you find most exciting about serving as Dean?
I have always been grateful for the excellent preparation and mentoring I received while a student at Utah State. I owe a debt of gratitude to many wonderful teachers and friends throughout the university, but in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business two mentors in particular, Reed Durtschi, and Del Gardner, stand out. Their careers influenced not only my life, but the lives of thousands of others, as well. I hope to repay my portion of that debt, at least in part, by contributing to the development of a new generation of Aggies.
Reed Durtschi, USU emeritus professor of economics, said he remembers Anderson as one of the top students he ever had. Durtschi said he followed Anderson’s career as a business consultant, politician and academician, and this broad background will make Anderson exceptionally effective as a dean.
"A dean has to make tough decisions that aren’t always popular with everyone," said Durtschi, who spent more than 35 years as a professor in the college, "Doug has the intelligence to make the right choices and the courage to pursue challenging actions."
In addition, Durtschi said, "Anderson’s experience and contacts throughout the nation will make him extremely effective at expanding opportunities for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business to garner outside support for both programs and for students."
"The appointment of Doug Anderson as dean of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business is most timely. He is uniquely qualified to meet the challenges facing the college. His credentials are most impressive. He has the experience and the vision to carry the college to new heights. The university is very fortunate to attract a man of his stature to lead the college into the new century." Bob Murray, 2006 Founder’s Day Honoree
"Doug Anderson is the right person at the right time." Richard Nelson, past chair of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business National Advisory Board
"I am excited to work with Doug Anderson because he brings such great things to USU – his education which started there, he’s proud to be an Aggie, and he wants to keep advancing the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business forward." Suzanne Pierce-Moore, member USU Board of Trustees and National Advisory Board