Hire More Faculty

Why do professors always say, “the administration should hire more faculty”? It seems to be the universal solution to all academic problems that professors face. There are a few sound reasons for this, but some bogus reasons as well.

A sound reason is that adjuncts constitute around 75 percent of the faculty, and full-time faculty only about 25 percent. Part-time faculty cannot (under present structures and rules) fully integrate into department or university affairs, including shared governance. The burden to raise the ranking and reputation of the department, school, or university (through research) – which almost every top administrator wants – falls to ever-smaller numbers of full-time faculty. Often, these faculty are mid-career or later, and may lack the burning fire and fresh, creative mind to do cutting-edge research that younger minds have. They will also cut back on service work (“been there, done that”) that younger faculty would gladly participate in. So, the “old-timers” (50+ crowd) focuses on teaching instead, which does little to raise the ranking of a university.

Another reason, one that seems to be quite sound, is enrollment growth. All things being equal, more students means larger classes and less individualized attention to students. So, it makes sense that a department with 25 or 50 new students should hire a new faculty. Or does it? Faculty hiring cannot be in direct proportion to enrollment growth. A department with 25 or 50 new students should not hire one additional faculty, unless there is an unusual circumstance such as the need for a professor with highly specialized knowledge (more on that in a moment).

Taiichi Ohno, the so-called father of Toyota’s production system, recounts a story in his book, Toyota Production System (p.69) about hiring in direct proportion to demand. He teaches us that large increases in productive output that are possible, with the addition of only a few more people, when waste, inconsistencies (unevenness), and excesses (unreasonableness) are thoroughly eliminated:

“Corolla’s were fairly popular and selling well. We started with a plan to make 5,000 cars. I instructed the head of the engine section to make 5,000 units and use under 100 workers. After two or three months, he reported, ‘We can make 5,000 units with 80 workers.’

After that, the Corolla kept selling well. So I asked him, ‘How many workers can make 10,000 units?’ He instantly answered, ’160 workers.’

So I yelled at him. ‘In grade school I was taught that two times eight equals sixteen. After all these years, do you think I should learn that from you? Do you think I’m a fool?’

Before long, 100 workers were making over 10,000 units. We might say that mass production made this possible. But it was due largely to the Toyota production system in which waste, inconsistencies, and excesses were thoroughly eliminated.”

Here is the lesson: A department with 200 students should be able to grow to 400 students with the addition of only one or two faculty. But, to do that that requires the thorough elimination of waste, inconsistencies, and excesses in all process that faculty participate in – including those demanded by the administration and accreditors (e.g. reports, reports, and more reports, and committee work, committee work, and more committee work). 

Thorough elimination of waste, inconsistencies, and excesses requires two things: Firstly, university leadership that allows departments to totally re-think everything they do and significantly improve all processes via kaizen. Secondly, it requires faculty who are eager to quickly study and improve how they perform administrative work (such as academic advising, academic program assessment, etc.), teaching , research, and service to the department and to the university – and to share with other departments how their new processes work so that their peers can learn from them.

Most universities are an entrepreneurial environment where individual faculty and departments can create new courses and academic programs. However, the processes for creating these new services are poor. So, historically, departments have overproduced both courses and degree programs in the hope that some will become popular among students and payers. Over time, universities offer much more than they are capable of delivering with both high quality and low cost.

As a result of bad management at the highest levels of institutional leadership for long periods of time, a painful effort to reduce and consolidate courses and programs eventually ensues. Hopefully, improved processes (both simple and quick) emerge so that new courses and degree programs are created that serve actual needs (versus politically motivated, such as the recent emphasis on STEM programs). And, that should include improved processes for modifying or shutting down courses and degree programs when demand wanes.

Needless to say, there should be concurrent activity to eliminate waste, inconsistencies, and excesses in administrative processes, including re-deployment of administrators to schools and departments to teach or to support teaching and research.

Another bogus reason for hiring faculty is academic over-specialization. If you owned a business, for-profit or not-for-profit, you would like the people you hire to be multi-skilled so that they can flexibly respond to changing circumstances (e.g. customer demand). You would hire specialists only where they are truly needed.

Universities usually hire single-skilled specialists throughout, and who have limited capability and little interest in doing something else. Faculty hiring practices and promotion processes assure that the university has an inflexible full-time faculty workforce. This, once again, is the result of bad management at the highest levels of institutional leadership for long periods of time. 

Even if the administration did hire more faculty, as professors ask, doing so would simply feed existing process problems that are mired in waste, inconsistency, and excess. The only answer, from faculty’s perspective, would again be to hire more faculty. That just cannot happen. Nor can the incessant hiring of administrators (at any level) – jobs postings for which typically outpace full-time tenure/tenure track faculty positions by 3.5 to 1 or more.

A Better Way To Teach

I recently received an e-mail from Magna Publications inviting me to join an online seminar about online courses (for $349). It read in part:

“In this new Magna Online Seminar you will learn how to modify your online courses and instructional approach so your students establish stronger connections with course materials and with you. 

Online Learning that Lasts: How to Engage & Retain Students will show you how to: 

  • Identify essential ideas, skills, or course objectives that students need to master, and learn to use proven strategies to ensure that students learn and remember course material
  • Break down online instruction into discrete components to keep students actively engaged throughout instruction
  • Use your students’ questions, issues, and concerns to construct relevance for the course content
  • Incorporate real-world scenarios, examples, and case studies to help students explore new concepts and ideas
  • Use creative discussion, debate, or what-would-you-do techniques to create a student-focused learning environment
  • Develop course outlines and assignments that encourage students to engage with the course at all levels of learning taxonomies
  • Include student-led instruction in which each student teaches a course concept to someone outside the class

You can make changes right away that will generate greater student success.”

Sounds really good! But, I’ll tell you that the Lean Teaching pedagogy offers these same benefits for face-to-face, hybrid, or online courses.

Most professors teach in ways that are based on memories of how their teachers taught them. We must question that. The assumption that teaching was good may have been based on your own strong performance, but I am sure you noticed, as I did, that many (perhaps most) other students struggled. If we question how we were taught, will will recognize that we must unlearn much of what we currently do and learn something new.

The question is, how do you do it?

The Lean Professor e-book (~128 pages and only ten bucks) is not a simple exhortation or call to action promoting Lean Teaching. It presents a better way to teach. It explicitly describes the teaching method that I developed and have used for the past 15 years. It is perhaps the most detailed account of a teaching method ever written, including results from years of student course evaluations.

The Lean Teaching pedagogy does not insert a new ideas into current ways of teaching. It replaces current (and largely ineffective) ways of teaching. And, importantly, the pedagogy is simple to learn and put into practice, and is extremely effective.

The Lean Professor will help you see the necessity of becoming a fully committed to continuous (daily) improvement and how to do it so that you are energized and even more proud of your work – even if university leaders rank teaching as the third priority behind publications and research grants. Simply integrate Lean Teaching into your daily teaching work, one course at a time and one step at a time.

• • • • • • • •

Review of The Lean Professor by Professor Gloria McVay:

In this book, Bob Emiliani addresses all of the facets of university teaching and makes both observations (from his own teaching) and recommendations (from his own experiments) for continuous improvement in course content, design, and delivery. If every professor seriously adopted a practice of continuous improvement as recommended in this book, the change to higher education would be nothing short of revolutionary. It takes being willing to really evaluate your teaching practice and realize that any single improvement in and of itself is not major. It is when you make many small improvements, knowing there is no end to improving, that you begin to understand the revolutionary power of lean in higher education. I found many good ideas that I will personally try out in my teaching practice. The big question then is – how do we create an environment which fosters this type of continuous improvement on a large enough scale to achieve a major breakthrough? For some of Bob’s thoughts on this challenging and broad-scoped topic, I recommend We Can Do It! – another excellent book on Lean in higher education.

The University As Manufacturer

mfg_serviceMost professors do not like to think of the university as business and students as customers, and that higher education is nothing like a manufacturing business. Yet, universities produce a service and provide it to people who pay for the service. It is not a stretch to say that colleges and universities manufacture educational services (just as the auto repair shop in the photo proudly manufactures service). They do this because there is demand from students and payers (either actual or projected).

The process for manufacturing educational services is often poor. So, universities tend to overproduce both courses and degree programs in the hope that some will become popular among students and payers. Overproduction extends to administrative and student support work as well. Over time, universities offer much more than they are capable of delivering with both high quality and low cost.

A funny thing nearly always happens in manufacturing businesses (under US-style management): A steady increase in high-paid overhead administrative positions over time results in high costs that lead to layoffs in operations and the outsourcing of work. In higher education, that means teaching faculty and teaching support staff are affected, while administration continues to grow. It is a remarkable progression of events, given that value is created in operations (teaching), while all other parts of the university and processes support that.

University leaders slowly but steadily begin to forget that teaching, the largest revenue generator – with greatest (often unrealized) profit potential – is what is most important. Their focus turns to survival of the institution, under the guise of “students matter most.”

How does this happen? Think about who is looking at costs and making the decisions about where to cut costs. It is the chief financial officer, the provost, the president, and board. First, they conceptualize a simplified version of the academic job as mostly limited to teaching. Next, they recognize the existence of an oversupply of people who are capable of doing the same or very similar work for less. Third, they have an abundance of administrative workers who can be re-assigned to do work that professors once did: academic advising, curriculum development (basically, a purchasing decision), etc.

Full-time teaching will further decline in the near-term in an efforts to help the university survive. Then, 10 or 15 years from now, the errors of this way will be recognized (indeed, obvious), and full-time teaching will return – albeit at reduced levels – just as it has happened with manufacturing.

You may think the university is unlike a manufacturer, but its fate is likely to be the same. Why? Because the chief financial officer, whom the provost, the president, and board place their faith and trust, is blind to distinctions such as manufacturing or service (or higher ed). They see only high costs today and recommend quick ways that will reduce costs tomorrow. Their narrow focus assures similar outcomes across all industries.

But, this fate is avoidable. Progressive leaders of manufacturing businesses, having seen others go down this losing path, see this as an opportunity to prosper. They recognize the “genba (actual place where value-creating work is done) is what’s important. Only genba generates profit.” But, in order to improve processes on the genba, leaders must think and do things differently than they have in the past – in almost every way. The senior management team bravely adopts Lean management and embarks on efforts to improve every processes in the business, both in operations and administration. Progressive service business leaders do the same.

Are there any brave leaders in higher education?

Skype With The Lean Professor

Fall semester begins in a few weeks. Need some help applying Lean Teaching to your courses? If so, let’s have a conversation about about that, or more broadly Lean in higher education. Send me an e-mail to schedule a date and time.

Discussion topics could include one or more of the following:

  • Lean teaching
  • Improving academic processes
  • Recent survey results
  • Lean Teaching visual controls
  • Lean applied to research
  • Lean university

Or, suggest another topic you’d like to discuss. The desired outcome is to develop relationships, learn, share the results of improvement efforts , etc.

Right Effect, Wrong Causes

The Chronicle of Higher Education published the article “Senators in Both Parties Agree: States Must Do More for Higher Education” (25 July 2014). The article speaks to how states have defunded public higher education between 2008 and 2014. Here are a few excerpts and my comments:

Senator Harkin, the committee’s chairman, reiterated his view that states largely disinvested from higher education during the most recent recession, driving up the tuition costs and requiring students to go deeper in debt for a college education.”

Finally, our elected officials begin to comprehend the effect (the problem) and its cause – though not its root cause. Failing to do the work to determine the root cause means that proposed corrective actions will miss the mark. To whit,

“The solution, Mr. Harkin said, is to create incentives for states to increase their appropriations for higher education.”

No. The reason why states disinvested in higher education (and K-12 education as well) is because they invested in companies. They gave companies tax breaks and incentives to create jobs or not leave town. The amount of public money re-directed to private enterprise is astonishing. Governors, state legislators, and economic development councils bear responsibility for doing that, and for forcing colleges and universities to raise prices. Read these New York Times articles here, here, and here.

While Senator Alexander identified a different culprit for shrinking state support for public colleges—rising Medicaid costs—he said he too expects states to take the lead in paying for higher education.”

No. Citing rising Medicaid costs is both a ruse and a implicit criticism of public welfare. So what are other solutions to this problem?

“In addition to freeing states from the costs of Medicaid, Senator Alexander said, the federal government could help states and colleges by reducing regulations for federally backed research on campuses and could help families and students by simplifying the process to apply for federal financial aid.”

While perhaps necessary, reducing regulations and simplifying the process to apply for federal financial aid are small dollar problems. Other solutions offered by Indiana’s commissioner of higher education are:

“…cut the number of credits required for most bachelor’s degrees to 120 and will start to define full time as 15 credits per semester, instead of 12, to encourage students to finish their degrees on time.”

Again, while perhaps necessary, these avoid the fundamental problem of re-directing public money to private enterprise.

The article finishes in the typical self-congratulatory way:

“There is no question that higher education is changing—there are new students, new providers, and new concerns for accountability,” Ms. Bell said later in an email. “States are tackling these issues in a big way.”

States are tacking these issues in a small way, undeserving of such praise. Here is more proof of that.

It is remarkable that the fundamental problem goes unrecognized and how the herd moves towards weak solutions that give the appearance of taking action, which is, of course, marketed as “bold action.”

Selling Change to Finance VPs

The Chronicle of Higher Education published the article “New Role for College Business Officers: Selling Change” (23 July 2014). It is remarkable. So, herewith are selected excerpts from the article and my critiques:

“The college vice president agreed that some of the proposals discussed for fixing the broken financing model for higher education might alienate some faculty members. But ‘they don’t see what we see,’ he said.”

Here’s what faculty have long seen: rising costs due to excessive and high-paying administrative positions, new facilities, generous student amenities, etc., declining revenue due to tuition discounts, lower enrollments, etc., and greatly reduced academic support. Do you see what we see?

“Karen L. Goldstein… [a] former chief financial officer at Davidson College, said she has sometimes wondered about professors who refuse to engage. ‘Don’t they understand,’ she said, ‘that if they don’t participate in this, not only are they not going to get raises, they’re not going to have a job because there won’t be any institution?’”

We won’t have a job. I think faculty understand that. I don’t sometimes wonder, I always wonder why administrators refuse to engage Lean management. Don’t they understand that if they don’t participate in Lean, not only are they not going to get raises, they’re not going to have a job because there won’t be any institution?

“High on their [college presidents] list, she said, was that ‘the CBO [chief business officer] needs to be an educator in the sense of helping the trustees, cabinet members, faculty, students, and staff to understand the financial status of the institution’.”

Maybe I can be a CBO. Here’s how  would educate trustees, cabinet members, faculty, students, and staff to understand the financial status of the institution: “It’s a pile of shit and it’s going to get worse. But, how you go about improving the financial status of the institution is critically important. Zero-sum ways causes great harm. You should cut costs and grow revenues in non-zero-sum ways so that people are not harmed. That way, people will support and participate in efforts to improve the financial status of the institution. You must have that. Let’s compare and contrast the alternatives, apply some critical thinking, and have a spirited dialog so that we make good decisions.” What do you think; do I have the job?

“The revenue side of colleges finances is the one that gets most of the attention. But the other half of the equation—the expense side—is increasingly important, Mr. Walda said.”

OK, here’s where you need to watch out. Finance people are helpless when it comes to revenues, other than to count it. But, they are deadly when it comes to costs because they possess a special skill which learned in undergraduate and graduate business school (6 years in total): They know how to put a red line through a budget number and write a lower number next to it, usually 5 to 10 percent lower – sometimes even 15 or 20 percent lower. People with this special skill, and there are many (and thus outsourceable for lower cost), are referred to as “cost-cutting experts” – though they are actually budget-cutting hacks. Apparently they do not realize that cost-cutting and budget-cutting are two different things, the latter requiring no expertise while the former requires great knowledge of and experience with process improvement.

“‘There’s a robust discussion about how to constrain costs,’ he said. ‘It goes from more profound things like combining academic programs or sharing academic programs with other institutions to using technology to reduce costs. And then there are simpler things like outsourcing and realigning procurement’.”

These are not profound things, as John Walda, president of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), claims. This is what the herd does. It is simply copying others, not innovating for yourself. Notice, there is no mention of administrative and academic process improvement as an effective way to “constrain” costs. College and university CBOs haven’t yet figured out that costs are subordinate to processes: bad processes result in high costs, good processes result in low cost. It looks like it is up to us as faculty to sell this type of change – process improvement – to college and university business officers.

“‘They found that class size was potentially one of the bigger levers you could use to generate more margin,’ he said. Another was capacity.”

WOW! It must be gratifying to have finally figured that out. But seriously, this is a simple view based on an incremental increase in sales volume with all other things being equal. How about improving teaching (see posts here and here) as a way to increase enrollments?

Here is a law of business: When costs go up and revenues decline, finance VP’s become more influential to an organization’s leaders, and they gain greater control to do more dumb things. Watch out.

Unfortunately, this situation is no false dilemma. You can either have college and university business officers (finance VPs) “constrain” costs, or we, as faculty and staff, can do it ourselves via process improvement (with the participation of trustees, leadership, alumni, students, etc.). I can assure you that our (nonzero-sum) method, which requires thinking, creativity, and innovation, is superior to their crude and unsophisticated (zero-sum) red-pen method.

Priceless Small Improvements

Twenty-two years ago, I served on a strategic planning committee with 5 or 6 other up-and-coming young engineers. We carefully assessed the situation and told our leader that the breakthrough strategy he wanted was not attainable because we were not even able to do our fundamentals well. Our recommendation was to first master the basics and build from there.

The boss’ view was that the organization needed a big disruptive strategy, while our view was that the organization needed to improve a little bit every day. Walk before you run. Climb one stair step at a time versus leaping from the lower landing to the upper landing. That is what we saw as practical and achievable, and therefore motivated to make happen. It was a failed message.

Likewise in higher education, university presidents look for a major disruptive strategy while ignoring the possibility that small daily improvements can rapidly accumulate and deliver outstanding results. A change that is not big and disruptive, in response to extant threats, is seen as not worth pursuing. Small daily improvements is not seen as “game-changing.” Home runs are beautiful, base hits are ugly.

What the leaders of our learning institutions fail to grasp is that small improvements made every day by everyone results in individual and organizational learning. Big changes made once in a while by a few people results in only individual learning for a few people and zero organizational learning. The former respects people, the latter does not.

If you’re not trained in how to make small improvements every day, to eliminate waste, unevenness, and unreasonableness in non-zero-sum ways, then the only thing you know how to do is either nothing or seek some kind of big disruptive change. The former is rapid-cycle experimentation (using the scientific method) that helps you keep up with the times, while the latter is slow-cycle change that helps you stay behind the times.

Stasis, followed by heroic disruptive change is seen as virtuous, while continuous small changes is seen as inferior and deficient. The reality is that all those little improvement are priceless.

Who Needs to Improve?

Every organization needs to improve, but only some have to improve.

The eight Ivy League schools need to improve, but they do not have to improve because theirs is a sellers’ market. True, they must compete against themselves, so within the Ivies – if one can afford the tuition and living expenses – it is a buyers’ market. As a result, the leaders of Ivy League institutions can focus on things other than improving administrative and academic processes.

Public higher education needs to improve and they have to improve. Students have choices of where to go for public higher education. External to the Ivy League is a true buyers’ market. Therefore, the leaders of public higher education institutions should be totally focused on continuously improving administrative and academic processes. But they are not.

Public higher education leaders frustrate their stakeholders when they:

  • Fail to see the market has shifted from sellers’ to buyers’.
  • Do the same things when a sellers’ market existed at a time when a buyers’ market exists.
  • Think a few small improvements is good enough.
  • Think improvement means to spend money (e.g. expensive new dorms, expensive learning management systems).

None of this is helped by leaders’ decisions that contradict their assurances that “students are the most important thing” (e.g. reduced instructional support, poor teaching, poor administrative processes, high tuition, poor sexual assault response, etc.).

So, we ask “why?” Why are public higher education leaders so blind to the obvious changes that have taken place, and so ill-informed about how to effectively deal with it? Is it because:

  • They are career academics, unaware of how other industries deal with major changes in a marketplace?
  • They are unaware of different management systems and associated leadership routines?
  • They have fallen into the trap that being in a leadership positions means that they are smarter than anyone else (and therefore dismiss others’ concerns and recommendations for improvement).
  • They lack intrinsic motivation for improvement; they lack the spirit of change and embrace the spirit of same?
  • They are unwilling to admit that their strategy for the university is flaws and must be drastically changed or scrapped?
  • They are not willing to think, learn, and do things differently from what they are accustomed to?

How can the leaders of public higher education be so uneducated about how to lead public higher education? Their ignorance will surely do harm when, they will swear to us, their intent is to do only good.

But perhaps there is hope: Maybe a big-name consultant will come around and point out the problem and suggest some progressive corrective actions. The only difference is what could have been had virtually for free will cost the university a few million dollars.

Did We Succeed Or Fail?

Many college and university graduates who now occupy policy-making positions advocate for judging the success of higher education by how graduates perform in the labor market – employment and earnings (the latter of which fails to account other important and valuable benefits offered by employers or sought by employees) – and tying the availability of public funds to employment and salary metrics. The high cost of tuition has generated this new basis of evaluation, the reduction of higher education to a return on investment calculation, and diverts people from the real issue: bad administrative and academic processes = high costs.

Colleges and universities have no direct role to play in post-graduation employment or remuneration. Hiring graduates and making salary offers is not their decision. The availability of public and private sector jobs and accompanying salaries are determined by leaders of those businesses in relation to productivity, sales, industry benchmarks, changes in technology, sales growth, macroeconomic conditions, and so on. In the future, jobs are likely to be fewer in number and the pay low. And, of course, continuing employment and salary increases are often dependent on individual supervisor-subordinate relationships, which oftentimes are strained, leading the employee to look elsewhere for a job.

Colleges and universities cannot possibly hope to succeed with employment and salary metrics, except perhaps for the top tier (though they too may someday suffer because their graduates cost much more to hire yet are not that much more capable than graduates of public universities). If the success of higher education is to be judged by how graduates perform in the labor market, then higher education administrators and faculty will quickly figure out ways to succeed with this dumb metric:

  • Offer only academic programs where employment is currently high or predicted to be high (the latter surely missing the mark at least 30 percent of the time, resulting in expensive failures that raise costs).
  • Offer financial incentives (bribes/kickbacks?) to employers to hire their graduates, much in the way that food producers offer financial incentives to grocers for prime shelf space.
  • Collude with sympathetic local employers to hire graduates as full-time regular employees during the time in which the metric is recorded, and reduce them to part-time status immediately thereafter.
  • Count promises made by employers to hire graduates as employed graduates (immediately after which employers can rescind the job offer).
  • Colleges and universities hire their own graduates for the minimum time necessary to be counted towards the metric.
  • Count unpaid volunteer work as full-time employment and list remuneration as that which the graduate would have gotten paid for if the work were not done for free.
  • Make the metric look better by adjusting for factors that affect employment such as involuntary layoffs, recession, wage freezes, productivity gains, etc.
  • Include the value of benefits to make the salary number look larger (as many companies do).
  • Use forecasted salary figures based on unrealistic assumptions (just as pension funds do for rates of return)
  • And, if all that is too hard to do, then just fake the numbers.

Judging the success of higher education by how graduates perform in the labor market displays the worst in critical thinking by our former students. It is like judging a chef on how their dinner customers performed on the toilet the following day, based on the ease, volume, characteristics of individual elements, and overall quality of output. That outcome is beyond the chef’s control.

The question is, are our graduates really that stupid? Or, have they shrewdly devised a way to cripple higher education while also benefiting from its demise? Is it a case of thoughtless destruction or a clever way to accelerate creative destruction? Faced with an opportunity, why have our graduates chosen what appears to be harm instead of doing good?

Have we, as teachers, succeeded or failed? It looks to me like we have failed, and, at minimum, need to improve how we educate students in critical thinking. At the same time, we could inform policy makers that Lean management is a better, non-zero-sum approach to improving higher education. Employment and salary metrics won’t do it.

Are College Presidents Overpaid?

Are college presidents overpaid? In most cases, yes. Overpaid or not, I expect more from the person in that position, and the pay and benefits that come with it, in terms of job performance.

Most university presidents do what every other university president does. Sameness, along with professional stasis, should not be rewarded with high pay. Leaders are people who not only challenge the norms of higher education and lead it towards a brighter future, they personally grow and improve their skills and capabilities through purposeful practice. Instead, what we typically see is university presidents that do little to develop themselves – and new ways of thinking – and whose focus is nothing more than keep the wheels from falling off the institutional wagon. And, in many cases, decisions made today, based on sameness are setting the institution up for future failure. Not wanting to be different can be disastrous.

High pay is better justified when a university president can do things that others cannot or will not do, and which results in a practical new model for higher education that is better than the traditional model. Needless to say, a university president skilled in Lean management (Continuous Improvement + Respect for People) is worth more than a university president skilled in conventional zero-sum management.

However, a university president skilled in Lean management would not seek high remuneration and would refuse it if offered by trustees. Infused with the mind of a Lean thinker, they know high pay is a cost that the university that students and payers cannot afford. They would instead direct the money towards more productive uses, such as funding continuous improvement activities.

Such people want to be president because they want the responsibility of leading positive, non-zero-sum change on a daily basis. They are not in the job because they like titles, perks, sycophants, and so on. They want to work to create a better future tomorrow and every day thereafter for students and all university stakeholders. That’s the most important thing.

Does money attract the best leadership? No. I think in most cases it attracts people who are attracted to money, and far less attracted to doing great work that is unique, valuable, and independent of the herd.

Sameness is safe, and at the present time it pays very well. Read the debate on college president pay in The New York Times.