My Father’s Stories:
Valuing People

For most of my life, if asked to describe my father, I would have talked about his accomplishments.   Today I believe he was a teacher who valued people and truly cared.  “Leadership is who you are, not what you do,” observed Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America and founder of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute.  With my father’s death, this idea came to life: The values you live are who you are.

Those values made him a great administrator from the very beginning.  In 1962, Frederick Hovde, President of Purdue, mounted a national search to identify someone who could build a first-class mathematics department at Purdue University.  When offered the job, Dad said, “If you want a first-class department, you need to make a commitment now that I can hire people this year without any interference.  A department begins with people.”  In his first year, Dad added 21 mathematicians to the department.   All of whom loved math and cared about teaching.

Dad taught and mentored hundreds of students and faculty over the years, and their success was his greatest pleasure. Louis De Branges, Edward C. Elliott Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University, pulled me aside in 2006, when Purdue was naming a building after my father. He said,  “Your father made sure I had what I needed to do great research, and that nothing got in my way. Your father is a mentor, a coach, and my best friend. No one else has ever done so much for me.”   As he spoke, I kept thinking of how my father had come home glowing and proud in 1984.   Louis had come to his office to tell him he had proved the Bieberbach conjecture.  My father was the first person he told.  My father always said that his job was to make sure Purdue had the best people and they were set up to win.

The focus on others was more than institutional with him. A number of people he mentored have said to me, “You are so lucky. I was jealous of the relationship you had with your father. He was a great father figure.  I was closer to your father than I am to mine.” One continued, “When he visited San Francisco, he took me to dinner just to learn how I was doing and let me know he cared. He had no agenda. He just wanted to know me.” Another said, “He always told me stories that made me think about what I could do.  They had to do with life as much as math.  He saw that I felt like a stranger here.   I heard the story of Sam the Tailor at least three times.  Sam ended up in Indiana because he got on the wrong train with his family.   Sam made Lafayette his community and has a very special place here.”

My brothers and I remember his playing duplicate bridge with each of us.  For a while, he was using three different bidding systems (a weak no trump for Richard, the precision club for me, and standard American for David) to play to our individual strengths.  He did this for about 6 years.  I cannot remember one time when he used the wrong bidding system with me.  When he was with me, he was focused on me.

My father had seven grandchildren, and a unique relationship with each. For example, he wrote a proof with my daughter Violet when she observed a pattern in numbers.   None of her teachers at Horace Mann had time to sit with her and think through what caused this particular pattern, whether or not it had been identified before, or whether it could be proven.  Her grandfather did. Brian, a 29 year-old grandson, brought cards to the hospital, 120+ miles from home, to see if my father could help with a card problem. He did.

My father’s caring, passionate engagement with others even extended to politics. A few months ago, at the age of 92, he attended a fundraising event for Cory Booker. They talked for a long while, each discovering a kindred soul in the other as my father shared his concerns about the values and sense of empathy he felt needed to passed on to the next generation – for their sake and for our country’s in general. After the social portion of the event, Booker spoke for half an hour, spending about a third of that time talking about his conversation with my dad. He stressed how impressed he was with how much my father cared about people and about his country, and most of all by the fact that even at his age, he’d felt the need to come and speak with his state’s Senatorial candidate in person, rather than simply sit by and bemoan the status quo.

valuing-peopleBut that was my father’s essence: he actively cared — about his family, his students, his colleagues, his fellow citizens, and his country. And at every level, he did what he could to make things better.

2 thoughts on “My Father’s Stories:
Valuing People

  1. I helped your father for several years with yard work both at arrowhead and at the university farm house. I also helped with computer work and whatever Phil and Margret needed done inside the home. I was sad to hear of his passing. I kept looking for a message about a memorial service in west lafayette but I never heard of anything. I work in Computer Science here at Purdue and other people have wondered if there was going to be a memorial service.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  2. We held a service in late November. It was beautiful. I am very sorry that you did not hear about it.

    I am working on a draft document about my father and will give you a call.

My Father’s Stories:
Education – Good is Not Great

My father, Phil Haas, rose to a top position at a research university, and he saw first-hand that great teachers create passion in their students.  Igniting this passion is arguably the first item on the agenda of our education system, and it sometimes seems to have fallen to the bottom of the list.

Dad often referred to a study completed by a former president of Dartmouth College.  It compared Calculus II final exam grades for students taught by graduate assistants, associate professors, and full professors.   I’d expect that students learning from experienced professors would do better, but the results showed no significant difference in averages or distributions by type of teacher. A year later, the president investigated what classes those students had enrolled in. Students of full professors were enrolled in high-level elective math classes at a rate more than double the other groups.  Clearly, the full professors had created passion in more students than the more junior teachers.

Blackboard6My father was a math professor at Purdue University and was also an administrator. The most exciting achievements in his career were his experiences in the classroom.  He was particularly proud of mentoring the daughter of a general in 1991.  She wanted to be a teacher – maybe a math teacher. One day she needed to go home for a family conference with her father.   A few days later the U.S. invaded Iraq. My father mentored her through that difficult emotional time. She called him her father “in loco” and left Purdue with an even greater love for mathematics.   She’s since received her Ph.D. and teaches mathematics at a prestigious university. His role in supporting her achievement was one of my father’s proudest accomplishments.

Are we fostering that kind of pride in educators today? Do we measure our teachers as mentors, as individuals who inspire? Not these days.   We assess teachers on their students’ exam scores, regardless of whether the students are reeling from malnutrition, lack of sleep, divorce, and other turmoil that happens outside school.  As Jim Collins would ask, are we striving to be good rather than great?  In a hyper-competitive global job market, is good really good enough?    My father didn’t think so. Before his death this month, he talked about the decline in true standards for education. “There is nothing more important now for this country,” he said, “than passionate learners.”

My father, who believed that math skills were essential for our workforce, was proud that Purdue offered honors Calculus courses and is now expanding this program he had started — an investment in their students and our nation’s future.

My Father’s Stories:
Decisions and General Patton

Over the past 6 weeks, I have had the opportunity to listen to many of my father’s lessons and stories, and think about the questions he posed. My next few blogs will replay some of these.

Decision Making

Wisdom:  My father viewed the difference between a good leader and a great leader as the ability to know when to make decisions, and when they make them to execute without looking back.  As he phrased it, “you will never have all the information you would like to make a decision, unless you’ve waited too long.   To know when you have enough, to make a decision and then go with it, is critical of great leaders.”

General George Patton: My father served in General Patton’s artillery division as staff sergeant. Patton assembled a bilingual intelligence unit which provided essential logistic information on the movement of the Germans as the American army progressed into Europe. My father’s mind was challenged to gather vital information to his unit’s advancements and then calculate the angles and positions for artillery fire.

Following D-Day, in August of 1944, the heavy artillery as part of the U.S. Third Army was driving through France.  As they were chasing the Germans, and approaching Colmar, Patton asked my father and his team to assess if they had the power and position to blow up a monumental stone bridge that was out of sight.  It appeared as if the Germans were heading towards that bridge to cross the Rhine.

After about 20 minutes, Patton came back and looked at my father eye to eye.   My father said,  “The bridge is at the edge of our range.  We have it as accurately positioned, as we will be able to.   I think we can hit it.”  Patton replied, without hesitation,  “give it everything we have and thank you.”

Subsequently, General Eisenhower called it, “One of the most successful missions in modern history .”  We cut the Germans off and more than 30,000 did not cross that river.

As my father told the story, he was in awe of Patton’s ability to make the decision at the moment, understand the risks, trust the team completely, bet on it’s success, and own the results – even if it had failed.  Patton thanked my father, regardless of the results.   My father’s last words were thank you.

FELIX HAAS OBITUARY

Felix Haas
1921-2013

Felix  “Phil” Haas, Provost Emeritus of Purdue University, passed away on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, surrounded by his family at his daughter’s home in New York.

Known as “Phil,” Haas was born on April 20, 1921, in Vienna, Austria. In 1938, after the Nazi takeover of Austria, he was sent by his parents to live with an aunt and uncle in London. A year later, he immigrated to New Jersey and worked in a factory for four years, until joining the U.S. Army. He served as General Patton’s Artillery Sergeant in World War II.  After the war, even though he lacked a high school degree, he was admitted to MIT, where his tuition was covered by the GI Bill.

Within six years of entering MIT in 1946, Haas had completed his bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry and mathematics, and his PhD in mathematics.  During his time at MIT, he met and married his first wife, Violet Bushwick, who also earned a PhD in mathematics from MIT.  They had three children together:  Richard A. Haas of Shrewsbury, Mass, Elizabeth Haas Edersheim of Scarsdale, NY, and David R. Haas of Westfield, NJ.

On completing his Ph.D. in 1952, Phil began a series of academic appointments—Instructor at Lehigh University, Fine Instructor at Princeton University, and Assistant Professor at University of Connecticut. He moved to Wayne State in 1957, where he became Head of the Mathematics Department and, then moved to Purdue University as Chair of Mathematics in 1962.

Phil served Purdue for more than 40 years and became the first Dean of the School of Science after its creation in 1962.   In that role, he helped launch the country’s first computer science department, recruiting many scientists at the cutting edge of their fields. He then served as University Provost (1972-86).  Recalling his 14-year period as Provost, Haas commented, “I was fortunate enough to work with presidents who allowed me to look to the future, hire the best people and effect changes.”  He believed a university should be a place where scholars and students are free to collectively pursue their research interests and interact to serve society’s needs.  He felt privileged to work at a Land Grant Institution whose mission it was to give all students the opportunity to pursue higher education regardless of their economic backgrounds.

After retiring as Provost, Phil returned to Purdue as the Arthur G, Hansen Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and taught for 15 more years (1987-2002).  Beginning in 1991, he taught pro-bono in exchange for a commitment from Purdue that his teaching would relieve non-tenured female faculty members with young children of their teaching loads.  During this time he received awards for having achieved the highest student rating of any mathematics professor a number of times, and helped design many of the honors courses.

“Of all of the things I have done,” Phil said,  “teaching is what I have enjoyed most. My best memories are of sparking excitement about a discipline in a student who didn’t know what he or she wanted to do. That excitement is the best thing that can happen.”

In 2006, Purdue renamed one of its two Computer Science buildings in honor of Felix Haas.

He was pre-deceased by his first wife.  He is survived by his second wife, Margaret, his three children and their spouses, Richard (Ann Mitchell), Elizabeth (Steven Edersheim), and David (Dana Stevens), and seven grandchildren, Derek, Brian (Yen-Hua Yu), Andrea, Jacob, Alvin, Claire, and Violet.

He has been a guide and inspiration to many and his family will miss him dearly.  The Felix Haas Memorial Fund has been established at Purdue University to support faculty members with young children who wish to have the time to pursue their passion for scientific or applied research without having the burden of a heavy teaching load.

Donations may be made to:

The Felix Haas Memorial Fund
Purdue University
403 West Wood Street
West Lafayette, Indiana 47907

The family is holding a private graveside burial, with a public memorial service planned for this fall in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The Purdue Math News

The Purdue Exponent

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALFRED P. SLOAN — BORN MAY 23, 1875

Today is a good day to recall the thoughts of Alfred P. Sloan (born May 23, 1875), who spent three decades making General Motors the largest corporation in the world. Sloan brought together disparate companies supplying and building automobiles to create a whole — the first industrial cluster.

Sloan reflected on those times: “when we started on this great adventure in the early 1900s the whole automotive industry was searching for ways and means to find itself. . . The number of sales by dealers was unknown. The number of cars held by dealers was unknown. Trends in consumer demand were unknown… There were no statistics on the different cars’ market penetration; no one kept track of registrations…”

As Peter F. Drucker put it, “The times were ripe for a man who could think imaginatively about the great corporate entities that were being created. . . and Sloan was the man.”

Sloan’s words about flexibility and adaptability are worth considering now, 138 years after his birth:

My generation had an opportunity unique in the history of American industry. When we started in business, the automobile was a new product, and the large-scale corporation was a new type of business organization. We knew that the product had a great potential, but I can hardly say that any of us, at the beginning, realized the extent to which the automobile would transform the United States and the world, reshape the entire economy, call new industries into being, and alter the pace and style of everyday life.

. . . It was our task to find out what forms of organization were suitable to our company. This meant, above all, an organization that could adapt to great changes in the market. Any rigidity by an automobile manufacturer, no matter how large or how well established, is severely penalized . . .

There have been and always will be many opportunities to fail in the automobile industry. The circumstances of the ever-changing market and ever-changing product are capable of breaking any business organization if that organization is unprepared for change.

. . . To meet the challenge of the market place, we must recognize changes in customer needs and desires far enough ahead to have the right products in the right places at the right time and in the right quantity.

In describing the General Motors organization I hope I have not left an impression that I think it is a finished product. No company ever stops changing. Change will come for better or worse. I also hope I have not left an impression that the organization runs itself automatically. An organization does not make decisions; its function is to provide a framework, based upon established criteria, within which decisions can be fashioned in an orderly manner.

The task of management is not to apply a formula but to decide issues on a case-by-case basis. No fixed, inflexible rule can ever be substituted for the exercise of sound business judgment in the decision making process.

Each new generation must meet changes- in the automotive market…in a changing world. For the present management, the work is only beginning. Some of their problems are similar to those I met in my time; some are problems I never dreamed of. The work of creating goes on.

Enduring Thinkers: Henry Laurence Gantt – born May 20, 1861

Happy 152nd Birthday

Henry Gantt invented the Gantt charts – a tool I live by.

After watching the U.S. fumble initially in World War I, he believed we would have lost the war if the allies hadn’t stepped in and helped.  Before and during the war, he’d seen great leaders in management go to Washington and fail, sometimes spectacularly.

While the army was calling for ships and shells, trucks and tanks, these men busied themselves with figures, piling up statistics, apparently quite satisfied that they were doing their part,” he wrote

He was describing a classic management problem — one that all of us know too well from bureaucracies — but this was occurring during a national crisis.

“In many cases, these statisticians did not differentiate between that which is interesting and that which is important,” he added.
“In but few cases did they realize that from the standpoint of production, yesterday’s record is valuable only as a guide for tomorrow.”

In these days of algorithms, that might sound obvious. But Gantt, who received degrees from the Stevens Institute of Technology and John Hopkins University, was doing pioneering work in the 1910s. Before the war, he’d had been busy developing a bar chart that depicts the start and end dates of key parts of a project. These soon became fundamental in the building of the Hoover Dam and the Interstate Highway System.  Tools we could put to use in building infrastructure and restructuring the budget today.

The concept was that the full team could see issues and needs, and collectively  address them to get the whole completed.   As Roger Martin would say years later, Henry Gantt was an integrative thinker — –possibly the first in Systems Dynamics.  More than 100 years after Gantt introduced the charts, they were integral to Alan Mulally’s turnaround at Ford Motor Company.

Gantt wrote about businesses as service organizations.   One of my favorite Gantt quotes has to do with the importance of thinking beyond profits:

Let me conclude with a thought Henry L Gantt wrote 110 years ago – that might warrant a healthy discussion and some action today:

Let us imagine two nations as nearly identical as we can picture them, one of which had a business system which was based upon and supported by the service it rendered to the community.   Let us imagine that the other nation, having the same degree of civilization, had a business system run primarily to give profits to those who controlled that system, which rendered service when such service increased its profits, but failed to render service when such service did not make for profits.   To make the comparison more exact, let us further imagine a large portion of the most capable men of the latter community engaged continually in a pull and haul, one against the other, to secure the largest possible profits.   Then let us ask ourselves in what relative state of economic development these two nations would find themselves at the end of ten years?

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Reviving Management: Don’t Reinvent Management, Apply Lessons From History To Shape Tomorrow

From corporate boardrooms to small-business incubators, from academic conferences to MBA classrooms, discussions center on re-inventing management. McKinsey and Gary Hamel are offering generous prizes for reinvention ideas.  But why re-invent something that’s been invented and practiced for centuries – from building pyramids to organizing classrooms?

As a discipline, managements can be traced to the mid-nineteenth century. Management has made possible a world in which organizations are so woven into the fabric of our lives that we take them for granted, from art museums and advertising agencies to zipper manufacturers and funeral homes.  One might even say that today a civilization is the summary of the organizations that exist. And yet so often we complain about “bad management,” “tone-deaf management” – whether we’re talking about an airline that has surly employees or a cruise ship that sinks while the captain appears to be cavorting.  Why does management constantly frustrate us?

Management has a history of creating idea after idea, a permanent revolution – Theory X versus Theory Y; lean manufacturing; the balanced score-card; the learning-organizaiton, 6-sigma and total quality control; Porter’s five-forces; re-engineering, empowering, change-management, clustering, integrative design…Today, over three quarter of a million people are studying management at the graduate level and it is the most popular undergraduate degree in the world.  Yet universities are teaching the theories of the day, not the time-tested lessons of practice.

Too often, we throw away what we know in a misguided attempt to create a new theory. For example, when Tom Peters and Bob Waterman wrote In Search of Excellence, they documented timeless principles about great management. Unfortunately, years later when several firms they featured failed to deliver, the lessons were pushed aside.   When the Dana Corp. went bankrupt in 2008, for example, the media stopped reciting lessons from visionary CEO Rene McPherson.

If the Hostess Co. had learned from Rene McPherson’s lessons, 18,500 people would still be employed and making a difference. Consider this line from McPherson: “The way you stay fresh – you never stop traveling, you never stop listening, you never stop asking people what they think.” The maker of Twinkies and Ring Dings died when management stopped challenging practices and assumptions, and the old way of doing business was assumed to be the right way – the only way.   Hostess died when it stopped respecting customers and when  new ideas were not encouraged.

We do not need to reinvent management.  We need to synthesize what we’ve learned over the decades, make it practical, and individually and collectively reapply the lessons to the challenges of tomorrow.   The biggest failure of management is the habit of taking a snapshot of a moment in time and try to reinvent theories, rather than to recognize that management is a living practice. In that way, it’s like medicine. Even the experts have a great deal to learn from past practices  and thousands of decisions, adapted to today’s context.

A great idea in management is a great idea, whether in the era of industrialization or connected-commerce. When Jim Collins wrote Built to Last, he jokingly told his publisher, “We should just call it, ‘Drucker had it right.’”  His co-author Jerry Porrassaid, “How about Waterman and Peters had it right.”

Waterman and Peters credit Chester Barnard, the pioneering AT&T executive who said corporations will collapse unless they emphasize effectiveness of people.  Chester Barnard was the Steve Jobs of the 1920s and 1930s.

Rather than embracing the next new idea, management needs access to the notions and experiments that have been tested, the practice that’s made a difference.  That’s why we have drafted an interactive tool to help managers access the best ideas.  We named it TheME, which stands for “The Elements of Management Effectiveness.”  It is available on the Web at NYCP.com or at the App store for the iPad.

Its integrated framework provides users easy access to quotes, video clips, anecdotes, and exercises for solving problems, envisioning a new venture, starting a conversation, or simply learning about management, past and present.

As Peter Drucker phrased it, from the outside, business can look like “a seemingly mindless game of chance at which any donkey could win provided only that he be ruthless.  But that is of course how any human activity looks to the outsider unless it can be shown to be purposeful, organized, systematic; that is unless it can be presented as the generalized knowledge of a discipline.” Our challenge: present management as a generalized knowledge. Management must reapply its lessons; it must revive to survive.  Take your hand to ThEME.   Let us know the lessons that are missing, as well as those lessons that you find useful. Tell us how you are using history to create tomorrow.

The Definitions of Management

WHAT IS AN ORGANIZATION?

An organization is an adaptive, organic, problem-solving group, acting with some coordination toward a common, explicit purpose, typically through division of responsibility, structured processes, and shared culture.

WHAT IS ORGANIZATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS?

Effective organizations share three characteristics:

  1.  External Orientation:  The ability to search out, perceive, and adapt to the environment, particularly to adapt the organization’s  practices and vision.
  2. Identity:   The organization’s knowledge and insights into its goals, what it should be doing, and what it looks like to others.  Members of the organization should ask themselves: to what extent do they and others understand and share the organization’s goals?   To what extent do they perceive the organization as it is perceived by the customers and the community it is serving?
  3. Integration:   The relationships among the parts of the organization that ensure that the various elements are meshing and that individual needs and organizational goals are aligned and mutually beneficial.

“Management Effectiveness” arises from the perspective and judgment to leverage the power of people and their creativity in contributing to society.

Note:  These definitions, developed by the ThEME Team, are based on our interpretations of the work of  Warren Bennis, Edgar Schein, and Henry Mintzberg.

History Matters: The Scanlon Challenge

Elizabeth Haas Edersheim, NYCP Founder

Where are you, Joseph Scanlon? The bonds that hold Americans together seem to be breaking apart as the 99 percent confront the 1 percent, or politicians highlight the 47 percent “who believe they are victims,” and as  outsourcing and downsizing stir resentments.

I’m convinced we desperately need the genius of Scanlon, a professional boxer turned accountant and organizational innovator. By helping workers and management find common cause, Scanlon did more than almost anyone in the past century to save American companies and their jobs.

Scanlon is rarely mentioned these days,  so a brief background:  In the 1930s, he was an accountant at an Ohio steel mill, where tenselabor-management relations and challenging economic times had driven the business near  bankruptcy. He proposed that the company president take the unusual step of attending a steelworkers union meeting.  The result was a groundbreaking agreement: workers promised to find ways to produce higher quality steel more efficiently, while cooperating with managers on deciding how  to measure improvements and defining success for the company. The savings would show up on paychecks; everyone would have a tangible stake in jointly making the company more competitive.

The union and management had to  go beyond simply cooperating; they had to trust each other, test and learn from new ideas together. The result:  the company was resuscitated, the mill stayed open, and everyone’s jobs were saved.

Scanlon became a local union president, and then research director for the National Steelworkers of America. His approach spread far beyond that Ohio steel town. A machine tool company in Massachusetts soon copied it, as did many other companies.  Professor Douglas McGregor invited Scanlon to teach at MIT, where he developed the “Scanlon Plan.”

Much of the gains at these companies was built not on the formula, but on Joe Scanlon’s broader perspective on labor-management cooperation. With greater transparency in their organizations,  he believed, workers would become involved in problem-solving. Breaking from the views of many management experts of the early- and mid-century, he argued that money was not the only motivator; workers wanted to believe in their company and take part in changing it. Workers yearned  for greater involvement and recognition.

No one in the nascent field of management studies caught the imagination of the media and the public like Scanlon.

“The most sought-after labor-relations adviser in the U.S. today is Joe Scanlon, 56, onetime prizefighter, open-hearth tender, steel company cost accountant, union local president and now a lecturer in industrial relations at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” a glowing profile in Time magazine proclaimed in 1955. “Wearing an open-neck sport shirt and studding his shop lingo with four-letter words, Joe Scanlon looks and sounds like anything but what he is: a fervent evangelist for the mutual interests of labor and management, who knows how to sell the idea to both sides.”

Although he had a notable impact a century ago, what does Joe Scanlon have to offer in the digital age? We live in a different world.  Those workers were doing repetitive tasks, sometimes on complex machines, unlike today’s growing legions of  knowledge  workers.

Still, the basic problems Scanlon addressed persist, with a 21st century twist:

Many executives fail to understand  how to make the most of the impact of knowledge workers on their organizations – how to capture the ideas of engineer in the GM research lab or the salesman on the floor of the AT&T store.  In fact, many workers –  are less than fully engaged in their organizations. Having workers feel bound  to the successes of their companies is even more vital these days. Millions continue working from home long after traditional 9 am – 5pm shifts are over, and millions more work remotely, without supervisors or colleagues nearby.  Employees are shouldering greater responsibility  as  customers demand more responsive service and customization based on their unprecedented knowledge of the competitive landscape  And despite their greater autonomy and status, knowledge workers aren’t  fully invested in the companies they work for – they feel like modern-day steelworkers, who could be replaced at any time by cheaper substitute workers far away. Or even machines.   

We need updated answers to the Scanlon Challenge for enterprises in this century:

  1. How much of what each employee can contribute are they contributing?  How  can employees make a difference?
  1. Is the environment set up to help them make a difference – for example, by working together on testing their ideas?
  1. How can they be recognized and compensated  appropriately for their contributions?

Fortunately, I’m seeing several impressive Scanlon-like projects, ranging from  a huge Chinese manufacturing company to American start-ups, and including innovative non-profits. More on those in future blogs.