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Promote from within or lose top people

Donald J. Doudna


Search Firms Provide Valuable Service

John Baker

Des Moines Register

December 11, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

Iowa has historically positioned itself as "the education state." We have been proud of our ACT scores and our superior graduates from our private and public colleges and universities. With this in mind, it makes sense to promote within our ranks when looking for a university president.

It is time for a mass overhaul of the Board of Regents and its bias against promotion and recruitment within our own borders. The best-run organizations in the world create succession plans for leadership, and the regents have failed in their oversight and actions by not having succession plans in place. A key role of any leader is to identify and prepare a replacement.

The message sent within Iowa organizations when top leaders are recruited out of state is that Iowans cannot compete and do not stack up to outsiders. Not only do we have a brain drain of our youth, we also have a drain of talented, experienced people.

- Donald J. Doudna,

Regarding the Dec. 3 story, "Critics Assail Price of U of I Hunt; Firm's Work in Stalled President Search Criticized':

There are several successful searches completed by retained search firms every day. As a result, those organizations have grown exponentially. The cost of doing such turns out to be a drop in the bucket.

A search firm provides expertise and services well beyond simply finding candidates. They have the skills and experience to ensure that candidates presented to their clients have been evaluated in an exhaustive process that includes gaining an intimate knowledge of the clients' requirements.

It is unfortunate that Professor Katherine Tachau has not had a good experience with search firms and feels they "generally are not particularly helpful" and that the U of I presidential search has not gone well.

The talented people in the search industry take pride in their work and enjoy helping their clients find the talent that will ultimately lead their organizations to a better place.

- John Baker,
executive vice president, DHR International,