The Greatest Management Principle

A couple of times now, I’ve blurted out in class: “what gets rewarded is what gets done.”  All I have to show as a reward for this exercise has been a couple of blank stares, so by my own statement you would think that I would cease.  But no – I make a mockery of my own statement by persisting.  I thought I would make a final effort by offering a little background.

Many years ago (here I go again), I happened to pick up a pulp management book in a used book store.  (I wonder if a used Kindle store will be quite the same?)  This was one of those over-simplification type books that was meant to be light, quick reading while on an airplane, and sold for a couple of bucks – about the price of a bottle of pop nowadays.   I remember the title as “The Greatest Management Principle in the World.”  Of course, the greatest management principle was:  “what gets rewarded is what gets done.”  It’s almost so obvious that the author could’ve stopped after the first page, but then he wouldn’t have had a book to sell!  Aside from that, his target audience was current and future managers – a class of people that seem to include a disproportionate number of individuals that are dumber than a crate of anvils –  so he rightfully felt the need to expand the topic for about 143 pages.  The book went on to point out examples of managers rewarding bad things, like gossip, back-stabbing, record falsification, etc.  And guess what? – that’s what they got in spades!  Managers that figured out how to reward innovation, efficiency, real sales, etc got that.  No surprises here.  People that are rewarded with pay, bonuses, commissions, etc figure out what it takes to get the desired reward and go for it!

So, the book was aimed at management types, but the greatest management principle obviously applies anywhere that Pavlov’s work is valid; which would certainly include schools.  To the extent students care about the potential rewards, they’ll try to figure out what it takes to get the reward, and do it.  If getting the reward requires competitive rote learning, that’s what will get done.  If getting the reward requires teamwork and innovation, that’s what will get done.

Hey! – maybe I should write a book!


Mentoring – The Highest Calling

I’ve been thinking about mentors.  I’ve had two teachers in my life that became mentors for me.  One was my high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Mellion; and the other was a professor of mining engineering here at Virginia Tech – Dr. William E. Foreman. 

Mrs. Mellion did more then just stand and teach chemistry to me.  She took me under her wing.  I took her chemistry class during my junior year in high school.  I was fascinated with chemistry, and had studied it on my own for years before I took her class.  I loved chemistry.  It showed.  She obviously appreciated a student that was actually interested in what she was teaching, instead of the normal “just trying to survive.”  Also, she was interested enough in what she was teaching to appreciate a kindred soul.  During my senior year, she let me grade papers and help with her lab experiments, probably with the thought of grooming me to be a teacher.  She heard of a competitive test in chemistry for a scholarship at William and Mary, and signed me up for it.  I was headed to GuilfordCollege, but Mrs. Mellion changed my life in ways I’ll never know.  I went to William and Mary.

 I first meet Dr. Foreman in 1973 when I came to Tech to pursue an MS degree in mining engineering.  Everyone called him “Prof.”  Prof was a great guy from the start.  He was willing to listen – even to a junior person – and find out what that person wanted to do, and help him do it.  He was very patient and understanding.

When I graduated, and the mining industry was down, Prof hired me on a research project he had.   Then as that wound down, he heard that MSHA was hiring engineers and brought it to my attention.  30 years later, I’m retiring from what has been a great career!

 I owe a lot to both these people.  After thinking about all of this, I agree with Kennedy – that mentoring is the highest calling.

Never Discourage Youth

After last night’s class, I just had to hit the blog again.  I (we) had another example last night of a teacher/counselor that told a student that “they couldn’t do…” or “they would never do…” something with their education/lives/etc.  This burns me up!  I would like to think that educational authority figures would be doing everything they could to encourage young people, not crushing out whatever sparks may be there.  This is kind of like playing God.  The authority figure is potentially limiting the potential of a person who is in a very formative stage.  Yikes!    I remember reading a biography of a scientist/educator (I don’t remember who) some years ago, and I vaguely remember a saying this scientist/educator had.  I tried to google variations of the saying to try to track down the person and the exact quote, but I didn’t have any luck.  Anyway, the point of the quote was that when it comes to education/livelihoods:  “Never discourage youth”  

Millennials and Old Farts

Well, I just took the “millennial test” – and, as expected, I scored “old fart.”  Because – hey – that’s what I am!  A good, solid “15.”  Of course, I knew as I was taking the test that if I admitted to having tattoos and piercings in unmentionable (at least by MY generations’ standards) areas of my body, as well as admitted to not having a landline, and spending all day texting and playing games on a phone that was smarter than I, that I could have “raised” my score.  But – what of it?  This is right up there with not having ever had a blue M&M!  These factors may indeed define a slice of new or old citizens, but didn’t we already know that?  And are blue M&M’s and tattoos the ultimate determinant of a “mindset,” or just the latest fad for a bunch of “whipper-snappers”?  Every generation has to have it’s fads.  I knew that when I was growing my hair long and smoking but never inhaling! 

And what happens to millennials when the high winds of a “dewretched” hit and knock-out all the power to the cell towers?  They’re adrift in an ocean!  My generation can live without cell-phones.  After all, we grew up inventing games around sticks and stones!  🙂

Ethics Code for U.S. Politicians!

While researching the code of ethics for mining engineers, I happened to think: “there’s a code for everyone somewhere on the internet – I wonder what the code of ethics is for politicians?

Googling took me to this site:

with the following info:

Code of Ethics for U.S. Government Service


Adopted July 11, 1958 

Resolved by the House of Representatives {the Senate concurring}, That it is the sense of the Congress that the following Code of Ethics should be adhered to by all Government employees, including officeholders.


Any person in Government service should: 

1. Put loyalty to the highest moral principals and to country above loyalty to Government persons, party, or department.

2. Uphold the Constitution, laws, and legal regulations of theUnited Statesand of all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion.

3. Give a full day’s labor for a full day’s pay; giving to the performance of his duties his earnest effort and best thought.

4. Seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished.

5. Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not; and never accept for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties.

6. Make no private promises of any kind binding upon the duties of office, since a Government employee has no private word which can be binding on public duty.

7. Engage in no business with the Government, either directly or indirectly which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his governmental duties.

8. Never use any information coming to him confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means for making private profit.

9. Expose corruption wherever discovered.

10. Uphold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust.

[Source: U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee]

 Sound like any politician you know?

BTW, I’ve been in government service 33 years, and I’d never been made aware of this resolution before!

LSU vs AAUP – The Footballs Are Professors!

By googling “academic freedom,” I came across the website for the American Association of University Professors – AAUP.  This site has a bunch of good pages and links, including the definitive document on academic freedom and tenure:

Of particular interest on the AAUP website was their “censured” list – the university bad-boys:

I checked out one of the 2012 listings – LSU.  The report is very detailed and sobering.  The LSU report describes the results of two investigations – one mistreatment apparently inspired by national politics and/or the fear on the part of administrators of possibly losing research money, while the second instance involved a faculty member who apparently tried to teach a rigorous and meaningful biology class to uncaring undergraduates (gasp!).  Check this out at:

If this doesn’t cause you to shiver at least a little bit, you’ve got ice water running through your veins!

Faculty Duties

Thank goodness for Google!

 I started thinking about “faculty duties,” and I figured I was a little “stuck.”  Sure, I could think of “teaching, publishing, and advising”; but that seemed brief.  A quick googling fleshed things out.

 For example, revealed a laundry list that I quote below:

 “Responsibilities of college and university professors usually include:

  1. Prepare and conduct lectures and seminars to undergraduate and graduate students
  2. Publish empirical and theoretical research in a variety of scholarly journals
  3. Advise students with respect to academic performance, career opportunities, and pursuit of advanced degrees
  4. Mentor and advise new academics, typically teaching assistants, research assistants, and junior faculty members
  5. Carry out administrative and managerial duties, including chairing committees, serving as head of an academic department, and representing the university in the community at large “

 If you’re interested in Bill Gates’ thoughts on the core competencies that go along with these responsibilities, check out the link above.  You might not have to be a saint according to Gate’s, but it sure won’t hurt if you are!

A Thought or Two About Our Mindset

 As I was driving home after last week’s class, I spent a lot of the drive (2 hours) thinking about our discussion of the Beloit Mindset List.  (I also spent a few brief moments of semi-terror dodging deer, ‘possums, and skunks, but that’s another story.)  One of my main conclusions was a point that was made in class, which was that the List Keepers could cut out a lot of the trivia – pop culture – and have a better list.  According to the Beloit College Mindset website: “The Mindset List was created at BeloitCollege in 1998 to reflect the world view of entering first year students.”  So, an obvious question is:  Do the colors of M&M’s reflect this world view?


Another thought that I had concerned truly earth-shaking events that can shape a generation’s mindset.  And here I have to warn you – I happen to be a time traveler from a world that is way in the past and long gone.  I can barely remember, as a pre-schooler, President Harry Truman! 


And, therefore, I can certainly remember JFK.  The point I want to make ties into another comment made in class.  Yes, you can study history and learn about some of the events that have shaped generations; but reading about these events can’t convey the emotions that the individuals experienced that lived through the events.  And those experienced emotions shape a person in a way that reading can’t.  Everybody over the age of 4 in 1963 remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news that JFK was dead because it was THAT incomprehensible, shocking, scary, etc.  Raw emotions.  A generation later, who remembers where they were when they read about it?  For me, the same thing applies to the assassination of President McKinley in, I’ve read, 1901.  I’ve read that people of that era were similarly shocked, but it doesn’t shock me.

Think of the people of the next generation reading about 9/11.  9/11 what?