Changing the World: Steve Jobs

I hardly gave Steve Jobs a thought while he was alive, but like many people I’m fascinated by trying to understand his significance now that he’s gone.  I encourage you to read any of the following pieces if you want to know more about Jobs. [...Read full article » ]

Coaching Cartoon

The Value of Coaching

The current issue of The New Yorker has another interesting article by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and a faculty member with the Harvard Medical School. One theme of his writing has been the use of different strategies for improving professional performance. The Checklist [...Read full article » ]


Dave Owens Receives Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award

The Edward Kidder Graham Faculty Service Award is a new award that will be conferred for the first time on this upcoming University Day, October 12. Our own Dave Owens will be the first recipient. [...Read full article » ]

nice job 2

You Are Never Found Wanting

Whenever I spend time with public officials, it is inevitable that someone will say how valuable they find your work.  It happens a lot.  For example, it happened last Friday in Concord at the NC Association of County Commissioners Conference.  A county commissioner from Guilford [...Read full article » ]


Tina Fey’s Advice on Communication and Innovation

Tina Fey’s new book, Bossypants, is smart and funny, which is not surprising. In the unlikely event she wants to pursue a different career, she has great potential as a management consultant. [...Read full article » ]



This week the School revealed some important things about our organizational culture through the TeachingPalooza. It showed a real commitment to improving our teaching, and that alone is a good thing. At the same time, however, the event also demonstrated some broader features of our culture that cut across all of our work—not just our

Moving Forward on Financial Sustainability

 Thanks to everyone for attending one of the nine roundtables on the School’s financial sustainability. I plan to offer one more for our legislative staff and anyone else who wasn’t able to attend the earlier sessions. My goal was to give everyone the same background for thinking about our financial future. In terms of the

A Lesson in Customer Service

The culture of the School encourages responsiveness and the consistent feedback from officials is that we do a great job. When something goes wrong, however, the Durham Bulls have provided us with a great example of how to respond. Admit it, apologize, and fix it. No excuses.

A Culture That Supports Smart Failures

Failure 3

Faculty and staff still show a remarkable willingness to experiment with new approaches around what we do and how we do it. It should not require unusual courage to take smart risks in our work. Lives are not at stake. I want to continue strengthening the culture of innovation and creativity at the School.

How to Get a Job at Google?


The School works in an environment that is very different than the one facing Google. We can’t adopt their hiring standards, including the growing number of their employees with any college education. Google offers a provocative model, however, and it is worth reflecting on whether the School’s hiring process can be improved. After all, hiring is critically important because ultimately it determines the quality of everything else we do.

Rich Ducker and a Career of Service


In thinking about Rich’s contributions and their importance, I couldn’t help but reflect on the nature of our relationships with lots of other public officials. A number of the zoning officials who spoke were emotional and had to compose themselves before continuing their comments about Rich. It was because they have worked together closely—as partners in the professionalization of their field—over a period of years. It was because they know that Rich has been focused on meeting their needs rather than his own.

Happy Holidays

Albert and Gladys

Our history is great, but I’m even more excited and optimistic about the School’s future. The mission has not changed, but how it is carried out has changed over the years, and it will continue to change. It is supposed to work that way. Mr. Coates was the ultimate change agent and he would embrace the School’s evolution.

A Commitment to Service

Many of our professional staff divisions recently have distributed (electronically to save money, of course) their 2012-2013 annual reports. In reading the reports as a group one comes away with a couple of strong impressions—the School’s work is supported at a very high level, and our staff is tireless in looking for ways to support us better and more efficiently. Continuous improvement is the order of the day.

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You . . .

In today’s political climate, it sometimes is hard to remember a time when people genuinely thought that government, especially the federal government, was capable of tackling complex problems. JFK inspired people to reach for goals beyond their grasp—to try things that seemed impossible.

Vision Is Not Enough

There are hundreds of books written every year about leadership. They focus largely on big questions, and nearly all of them talk about the importance of creating a shared vision. I have no quarrel with most of what is written about leadership—my problem is with the element that too often is ignored. Visionary leadership is not enough. Effective leadership also must include the ability to implement a vision for change, which inevitably involves the less dramatic work of management and administration.