PICMET Keynote Speech: August 4, 2011 830AM
Keith D Kulper, President, KULPER & COMPANY, LLC
It is a real pleasure to be with you all this morning; my wife, Denise and I are both honored to be here. Congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of PICMET; Dundar, you and your colleagues have done an exceptional job. PICMET is the key global leader in the field of technology management research and innovation; thank you for asking me to address the group today.
The focus of my remarks, will be of real interest to the attendees of the PICMET conference because our firm, KULPER & COMPANY, works at the intersection of Academic Research and Corporation Innovation on senior level leadership searches for academic institutions and corporations who rely on them to aid them with the commercialization of new knowledge.
Over the past few years we have helped universities with solid business and engineering programs attract transformational leaders to fill VP, Provost, Dean and Department Chair positions. Likewise we have helped our corporate clients engaged in commercializing break through research bring in the right leaders for their key positions.
Attracting transformational leaders is always a very difficult challenge. The reason is that our clients must come to grips with one of the hardest admissions—they need to change. This happens most often when there is a crisis brewing or when there is great ambition to move a terrific idea forward. There are many excellent candidates for challenging jobs—this is true and always will be the case. We often tell our clients that identifying a slate of candidates qualified and motivated to accept the job offer will not be difficult—the real challenge is hiring the right one.
Many organizations pride themselves on their growth and development. Look at PICMET for just one moment. Where would it be without Dundar’s steady and devoted leadership. Over the years his efforts have transformed this organization from a small group of professionals interested in learning more from one another about the theory and practice of technology management to a world leading body encouraging the discovery of new knowledge and the application of it by top corporations everywhere.
When we look at transformational change in any organization our clients are usually quick to admit that there are issues that they themselves have created as well as opportunities for them to seize. An honest and accurate assessment of the situation is the first step in the process toward attracting a new leader who will be able to affect the desired organizational change.
For example, a few years ago a provost came to us and said: “We have tried to attract a new Dean for our business school on our own the last two times. Each effort resulted in less than satisfactory results. We need a Dean who can attract the right new faculty, boost enrollment, market awareness and attract funding. We also need a leader who will know how to work well with key alumni, trustees and the Deans of the other schools who are anxious to create new boundary crossing interdisciplinary programs”.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? It is a very common challenge. Many of the job advertisements found on the national job sites will describe a hiring need similar to this one. Every university wants the right leaders for their schools and leaders must be able to show progress in their efforts or they will not remain in the big chair for long. Transformational change comes easier when the client university or company is clear about the Key Performance Indicators for the hired candidate in addition to the responsibilities of the job. KPIs define success for both the hired candidate and the organization by establishing a real “to do” list with a timeline. For example, over a five year period a KPI for the new Dean in the case study I was referring to earlier included, “growing enrollment by 10 % compounded annually over a five year period”. For most schools this sort of KPI would be very difficult to accomplish for many reasons including current market share, school reputation and senior administration commitment. What made this doable though, was careful research at the outset so that reasonable—vs “pie in the sky” KPIs could be established.
Now it is very true that not every candidate seemingly qualified to be a Dean based upon his or her record of research, teaching, administrative and service record will know how to accomplish the KPIs set forth in position spec. This is a good thing since those candidates should not be actively considered in the first place. Achieving real consensus among the hiring decision makers about what the hired candidate must actually do –by when—to be considered a real success in his or her new role is, in our experience here at KULPER & COMPANY, the most important element of a successful search.
We help our clients create the KPIs for the hired candidate when we work with them on the producing the position description. This is a collaborative effort with solid input from the hiring decision makers. It is not enough to attract a slate of candidates who appear right for the position—it is necessary to qualify candidates who are likely to succeed and this is done by matching a carefully crafted set of KPIs with the background of accomplishment and enthusiasm of the candidates for the transformational challenges that lie ahead. We seek to affect hiring matches that highly predictive of the future success of the candidate.
In our field of technology management this kind of approach to leadership hiring could not be more important. The right leaders of universities and corporations will be able to accelerate the development of leaders who will be able to drive the field forward. This will be measured in many ways. More students will graduate with technical and business degrees who will provide solutions to the research and development challenges of today. Transformational leaders are able to understand their KPIs and then drive them home with enthusiasm.
How is it that a university or company that heretofore may have appeared much the also ran is able to jump ahead of its best competitors? Embracing the idea of transformational change must come first —then a careful plan that charts the milestone of accomplishment must be created and once that is done candidates with the right set of behavioral competencies must be matched with the responsibilities and KPIs of the position.
Since our firm opened for business in March of 1997 we have noted with interest how closely many of the most successful corporations are aligned with universities devoted to discovering new knowledge that can be successfully commercialized. We have made introductions to Deans and department chairs to corporate VPs and Directors seeking to strengthen mutual ties. Innovation always comes from problem solving—companies need universities to help them address their most critically important opportunities. It is a great “space” to focus on—-we love what we do!
The case studies on our website www.kulpercompany.com share a common theme: search committee members and hiring decision makers perceive real value from our assistance in helping them attract and hire the right candidate. In the area of technology innovation and management the importance of having the right leaders could not be more important. There is a real “war for talent” constantly being waged by the best institutions and companies seeking growth and development as well as competitive advantage. Universities and companies with a clear idea of what they want to accomplish by when stand the best chance of not only achieving their strategic goals but also in hiring and attracting talent most likely to succeed.
Our commitment to helping academic institutions and companies engaged in technology development and management stems from an early engagement we accepted from Stevens Institute in Hoboken NJ. We helped them with a variety of key hires in the Howe School of Technology Management and the School of Engineering. From those early days we perceived the importance of the product development “eco system” that includes corporations who depend on academia for fresh thinking and new ideas to help drive their business—as well as government agencies that fund the discovery of new knowledge; we have made this space our passionate focus ever since because we see how important it is to have the right leader in positions of authority at the universities and companies we support. We know that our clients agree.
It is very important to understand and appreciate the forces at work that serve as the well spring of innovation….because the best and brightest leaders are driving the process—and we make it our business to know who these people are and why they are succeeding in their roles.
The virtuous circle of academia, industry and government produce a breathtaking array of activities that serve to stoke the fires of entrepreneurship and innovation. Leaders like Steve Jobs at Apple, Bill Gates at Microsoft, Andy Grove at Intel and the many unsung heroes at Dupont, 3M, Exxon and so many others will speak of the debt they owe academia in support of their R&D and product development activities. Government agencies and foundations likewise will readily agree that academic leaders forge the pathway that results in so many new products and services that benefit humanity.
How do we know that the right candidate is getting identified and hired by the universities and companies that must attract the best and most dependable leaders?
With so much at stake …..
• What needs to be done to improve the chances of having a national search produce the great outcomes sought after by clients and candidates alike?
• Why would university and corporate leaders alike risk the outcome of what is perhaps their most important activity: winning the War for Talent?
• How can search firms help?
Here are some of the key challenges that a search committee and hiring decision makers must confront when they venture into the marketplace to attract the Right Hired Candidate
• Search cycle time parameters
• Breadth of candidate choice
• Candidate Assessment factors
• Search Committee leadership
• Search Committee composition/volunteers busy with full time jobs
• Opportunity cost
How can an experienced search consultant help improve the odds for their clients?
• Focused project management—from start to finish of the engagement
• Development of a position description that is compelling to the right hired candidate and includes a set of achievable KPIs //by when
• Candidate development process that keeps the right candidates interested and enthused until an offer is made and accepted
• Search Committee guidance based upon what works and what doesn’t work
So what does work and what doesn’t?
• The right candidate is one who is closely aligned with the position spec
• A position spec is effective when it states not only what the client wants but what the hired candidate can expect from the client in the way of support and funding
• Clarity of Key Performance Indicators is essential
• KPIs help produce a slate of candidates who are very well matched with what the client needs and expects the successful candidate to actually do—by when –in his or her new job
KEY Elements of a successful Project Plan for a major search assignment
• Achieve a clearly articulated position description that is supported by the search committee and hiring decision makers
• Structure a candidate assessment process that will identify top performers and attract them to the job
• Establish a reasonable/achievable project plan at the outset of the search and work the plan continually until the assignment is completed.
• Stay flexible—the position description may require calibration as the search progresses
• Make a compelling offer to the right candidate(s)
• Track actual performance of the hired candidate once hired at 6, 12, 24 and 36 month intervals
Research and Development depends on the right team led by experienced and capable executives. The best universities and companies understand that talent is the most important element. Taking an approach that attracts the most suitable talent is critically important for every institution and corporation competing to produce the best research and most reliable product solutions.
It has been a pleasure to share these thoughts and findings with you all this morning—now I look forward to responding to any questions you may have during the remaining time allotted me.