CBO Tales

Hard Knocks and Proud Successes

To begin this foray into this unknown territory, we invited our Chair, Mitch Wein, to be the first to share a story.

Very early in my tenure at Haverford College, we were interviewing architects for a major building project on-campus. After hearing the presentations, the Selection Committee remained to debrief and see if we had clarity around a decision. Sitting next to our Provost, I started to communicate first since I was at one end and we were going to circumnavigate the table. I indicated, “I would vote for Firm XYZ”. Not looking to embarrass his new colleague, our Provost quietly whispered to me, “We don’t vote here.” Haverford’s consensus-based, decision-making is rooted in our Quaker values.

What I learned is that simply voting for Firm XYZ also misses the point. The decision-making process not only encourages, but rather requires, elaboration and discussion. Haverford’s expectation: share with us why you would select Firm XYZ, pros and cons, your analysis, experiences and your perspectives. The group process and dynamic wanted more from each participant, such that we actively engaged in the conversation. The thought-provoking debate would have been missed in a simple majority vote. During the discussion, the group determined it had an insightful question that, I submit, may not have otherwise been uncovered. After investigating the matter, the Selection Committee reached consensus and proceeded expeditiously.

Inclusive, methodical and careful conversation creates better decision-making. The role of each community member, including the chief business officer, I have learned, is to blend the strengths of in-depth analysis and thoughtful discussion with the requirement to be nimble, proactive and, at times, particularly decisive - within the proper culture of the school. With that outcome, a college’s core values add to its unique strengths.

Share Your Story

What are CBO Tales?

Picture this – a bunch of business officers sitting around a table, brainstorming about potential new features to include in a re-imagined EACUBO website. Someone begins with, “what about a blog? Everyone loves a blog, don’t they?” Someone else said “folks talk about blogs, but do people actually read them and why?” And still another offered “I’ve never written one, but some that I follow are very entertaining and informative”. The Website Task Force determined that “blog-writing” was probably not a common skill set among higher education business officers, but that wouldn’t stop us! We decided to tackle it anyways, since we know business officers are undaunted by the unknown!

So, we are starting with the idea of sharing our stories. We all have them, right? When did things go wrong? How did you fix it? What were the lessons learned? What went brilliantly well? Why? In the spirit of supporting each other in our EACUBO community, we are going to try this out – inviting chief business officers to tell their stories in this monthly CBO Tales site.