Two years ago, President Joe Morone left Bentley as an institution “poised to become the leading business school of the United States.” Two years ago, as our key visionary departed, so too did our strategic vision and our ability to focus our efforts on achieving Bentley’s potential.
On the surface, great things have happened since Joe Morone left. We have a new library, a vastly improved gym, and a PhD program. We’ve managed to hold our position at 31 on BusinessWeek’s top 50 undergrad business programs this year (while Babson has fallen)! But, a closer look reveals the problem: The lack of a visionary has resulted in an organization with many features indicating our previous strategic trajectory, but little substance or drive to propagate and grow our strategy. Much of our current success is due to forces Dr. Morone set in motion years ago.
For evidence of this, one need only examine the message we are sending to the world on our “About Bentley” web page, “We do for students interested in business and related professions what the leading technological universities do for students of science and engineering.” What exactly is that? This ambiguity betrays the underlying lack of clarity amongst Bentley’s students, faculty, and administrators. The leading technological institutions’ mission statements espouse missions of the global advancement of society through the dissemination and creation of new knowledge while our mission statement self-servingly delineates the attributes that yield our “distinction” as an institution.
Furthermore, upon closer inspection, the latest BusinessWeek rankings also betray this problem. Though we earned an A+ on facilities and career services, we only earned a B on teaching quality. Reading all of the student comments supplied on Bentley’s profile on BusinessWeek.com, one will note that few of the comments directly focus on academics. Unless I am mistaken, schools exist, first and foremost, to educate students and advance society’s knowledge through research. That our culture does not overtly exhibit this focus is indicative of a lack of strategic direction.
The most disconcerting aspect of this problem is that everybody seems to agree, but nobody is sure what’s happening. I’ve been having conversations with a number of professors regarding the lack of a president, and I have noticed two things. First, the group of professors I have spoken to unanimously agree that the lack of a president is a serious problem. Second, nobody is certain of anything. Everything I’m hearing about the presidential search is circumstantial, under-the-radar, through the grapevine, unofficial, hush-hush, etc. Bentley owes its students and faculty a direct and clear update on the progress of the search. This issue has loomed large as an elephant for too long.
All of the literature showcasing Bentley as a great school highlights our world-class learning labs and facilities, our beautiful campus, and our focus on technology. Little indicates our position as a thought leader. Without a strategist to lead Bentley, how could we ever hope to lead innovation in business paradigms? Without being a business thought leader, we will never be a leading business school.
It deserves to be said, however, that we exhibit these features which indicate success because of so many latent positive attributes. The faculty members here are amazing, the caliber of students seems to improve each year, and the capital we have in place is poised to serve us well. Our focus on the arts and sciences, ethics, community service, and international studies really make us stand out. I have seen these things improve greatly in the four years that I have been here. Without strategic direction, we’re wasting all of these features.
Before coming to Bentley, Dr. Morone was already an established strategist. When he came to Bentley, it was on the verge of strategic transition, and it desperately needed a strategist. As this new strategy is set in motion, the direction of a visionary is just as important. Though the college has received some press on “management by committee,” that approach appears to be wearing thin. I believe we can achieve our projected status as a leading business institution, but that we cannot do so without the direction of a president.
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