Magazine article Management Review

William Glavin Brings Business Style to Campus

Magazine article Management Review

William Glavin Brings Business Style to Campus

Article excerpt

William Glavin never can be accused of lolling around following his retirement. After a 34-year career beginning with IBM and ending with the position of vice chairman of Xerox, Glavin began a second career in academia a the president of Babson College, located outside of Boston. Although he didn't know much about Babson, or about running a school, he certainly knew how to run a business. During his six years as managing director and chief operating officer of Rank Xerox, he presided over the London subsidiary's most dramatic volume and earnings performance period and oversaw operations in Europe, Africa, and Middle Eastern, Eastern bloc and South Pacific countries. When he began his presidency at Babson in July 1989, he saw no reason why an educational institution couldn't benefit from a few pointers from the business world. Since then, he has instituted a strategic planning process, which makes staff and faculty accountable to yearly goals, and introduced Total Quality Management. He practices management by walking around and upholds the principles of innovation and entrepreneurship upon which the college was founded. Recently, Julie Cohen Mason, Management Review's staff editor, talked to Glavin about the changes he has brought to Babson as well as changes going on in MBA education today.

Q. What made you decide to accept the position of president of Babson?

A. I've been involved n education on the academic side for many year at the Wharton School. Along came this opportunity; it intrigued me. I knew nothing about Babson College. I came up, met the people and talked about what they were trying to do.

I have a great desire, as does my wife, to help contribute in any way I can to the youth of the world. We think that education is one of those things that can contribute, but educational institutions need to listen to their customers. Our customers in education clearly are the companies that hire our students when they graduate. This school was willing and able to listen to its customers.

Q. What ideas and experiences from your business background have you brought to Babson?

A. Probably the biggest contribution that came from my management experience in business had to do with our sitting down, structuring and implementing a strategy plan that was forward-looking. What are we going to do in the 20th century in the world of management that will require us in the world of education to make some changes now? We had eight teams looking at eight different things for a one-year look-see to put together a strategy plan process for the college.

Q. Was there anything from your business background that hindered your transition?

A. No. I can't think of anything. One of the things that has hindered some others is that things don't happen as rapidly in academia as they do in the business world. Consensus building is a requirement, not a desire. In corporate America you'd like it as a desire, but here it's can absolute necessity.

I've learned a great lesson: In the corporate world, we manage today's problems today. And then once every three or four months people step back and say, well, let's talk about longer-term things. In academia, you're thinking further ahead than most business-people do. That was a great help and it's a great lesson I've learned--I wish I had learned it 20 years ago.

Q. How would you described your management style?

A. I generate many ideas without directing people to follow them or do them. It's really a matter of them picking up [ideas] and deciding what to do and not to do. I'm not a directive person. I have very much of a listener attitude. There's no question that I cannot do it all, and I ought to have everybody who works for me be smarter than me.

I'm a very enthusiastic person. Enthusiasm is contagious and that has really made a huge difference at this school. Student have told me, "Since you've been here, the enthusiasm, friendliness and openness to talk is something that we really like. …

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