01 Dec 1999
Editor, 1981-1984by Jeff CruikshankTopics:
I was hired as the HBS Bulletin editor only about six months after John McArthur took over as the new Dean of the School. He was young - 46, younger than I am now, which I find sobering - but boy, I was really young. My local champion hid my bicycle and backpack every time I came to the campus for one of the endless interviews that were required to become the editor of the Bulletin.
Now it can be told: I had low expectations of the place. I suspected that the HBS community would be exclusively interested in stocks, bonds, and other mysterious recesses of capitalism. Instead, I found an amazingly stimulating peer group. Almost without exception, they were well traveled, well read, visually literate, and extremely demanding.
They were also opportunistic and flexible. Two good illustrations: (1) Despite bike and backpack, they hired me; and (2) when I moved on, they took my strong advice and hired my former staff assistant to succeed me. Neither of us fit the job description, exactly, but the Bulletin has nevertheless survived and prospered.
There really were no institutional crises during my tenure as Bulletin editor. In fact, it was a bad strategy to try and stampede the Dean or his colleagues. Even when something looked to me like a genuine impending disaster - a true train wreck looming just around the next bend - there was a very good chance that I was failing to see the Big Picture.
So no disasters, but there were some highly positive trends initiated in those early years of McArthur's tenure - trends that continue today and in which the Bulletin played a contributing role. The new Dean was determined to rebuild the faculty's pride in what it did uniquely well - so our magazine published many stories on faculty research and teaching. One story we ran on George F. Baker and the founding of the School was so well received by alumni that it led to a book-length history of the School that I had the privilege of writing. Special issues on entrepreneurship, alumni in public service, 25th Reunion classes, the Japanese industrialist Konosuke Matsushita - all were topics that the Dean and his colleagues saw as serving some larger strategy at the School.
The Bulletin was not so important, in and of itself - although I was often amazed that every two months, we mailed out fifty thousand copies of a magazine that no one except us ever looked at in advance. But the way the Bulletin was managed in those days said important things about the larger institution. If the cause was good - if the case could be made for doing something the right way - then the resources were immediately forthcoming for that cause. If individuals or a team of people performed above institutional expectations, they were not only given freedom but encouraged to do more. Doing a task well only meant that more interesting tasks would come your way.
And since then, I've felt that's the right way to run the railroad.
(After leaving the School, Jeff Cruikshank cofounded Kohn Cruikshank Inc., a Boston-based communications firm. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books of interest to managers.)