Strange Congratulations

As anyone who has ever read this column before can attest, That Guy is a simple-minded fellow. I admit it, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed (not just by HBS standards, but in general). Perhaps this un-sharpness is what’s left me struggling to understand a few things about last week’s “Alumni Achievement Awards Forum & Panel Discussion”.

First, maybe I just don’t understand this reverse-psychology type mentality. I think the rationale goes like this: Let’s get the best of the best of our alums, let’s call in the Dean of the school to lead the discussion, and let’s get a highly accomplished and respected Professor to moderate. Then, let’s discuss a case about a protagonist who strangles someone. That will really show everyone that we are lining up the big guns to tell people what not to do. Let’s really highlight and put all of our weight behind those “how not to” examples.

Second, if the Leadership and Values Committee has decided that sometimes you need to see the bad guys to make sure that you know what to avoid, couldn’t we do worse than Rob Parsons? Can’t we dust off some of the old Enron cases or write an expose on Jeff Skilling that cuts a little deeper? Maybe the pending legal proceedings prevent Enron from being the exact right topic, but the point is, by today’s standards, Rob Parsons doesn’t look quite as bad as maybe he once did.

Last, if you are one of the award winners, is this how you want to spend your Thursday afternoon? I wonder how the pitch goes when they are notified that they won an award.

HBS: Congratulations!! You have won the Alumni Achievement Award.

Recipient: The what?

HBS: The Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award!

Recipient: Oh, ok. (pause) Do I get a building named after me?

HBS: No, even better! We want to invite you back to campus and put on a really big show and honor your achievement.

Recipient: Umm, OK, that sounds nice, let me check my calendar.

HBS: How does Thursday, September 30 sound?

Recipient: Yeah, ok, I can make that work.

HBS: (speaking quickly) Great, we’ll see you on the 30th. Oh, and by the way, there’s a 10 page case for you to read and prepare beforehand, you’ll be getting a copy in the mail. -click-

Recipient: There’s a what? Hello. Hello?

Again, maybe this is just That Guy missing the point as usual, but homework isn’t something I usually associate with receiving an award. Then again, unlike That Guy, these guys were all Baker Scholars, so homework is probably what they do for fun anyway.

Intrigued by this idea, I’ve decided that I am going to create my own awards, where the lucky winners get to do my nightly case assignments every day for the remainder of this semester. Anyone who would like to apply for the honor of doing my assignments can email a cover letter and their resume to If your credentials are impressive enough, I will award you a case study of my choosing. If you have particular areas of interest, or strengths that you think I should be aware of, please note those in your cover letter.

Ok, so maybe this is an over-simplification of the situation, but the fact remains that I don’t get it. Clearly, That Guy is not part of the Leadership and Values Committee (if this is a surprise to any of you, please have your reading comprehension tested), so if you find any of this offensive please keep in mind that my deadline for this article was prior to the actual event, so maybe there is more to the forum than I am aware of. (That was just a disclaimer that I felt compelled to add. Regular readers, please also be aware that I am too lazy to actually attend the event, so the article wouldn’t have changed).