May 2, 2004

Bush's Harvard MBA In Practice

A contemporary of George Bush at Harvard Business School emphatically rejects the left's favorite notion that the president "coasted" through school on the strength of his family connections. And Thomas Lifson goes on to demonstrate how Bush has in fact used his HBS education to help him govern.

Having attended Harvard Business School at the same time as the President, graduating from the two-year program a year after he did, and then serving on its faculty after a year’s interval spent writing a PhD thesis, I am intimately familiar with the rigors of the program at the time, and the miniscule degree of slack cut for even the most well-connected students, when their performance did not make the grade.

There is simply no way on earth that the son of the then-Ambassador to China, or anyone else, could have coasted through Harvard Business School with a “gentleman’s C.” I never, ever heard of a case of an incompetent student being allowed to graduate, simply because a certain family was prominent. On the contrary, I did hear stories of well-born students having to leave prior to graduation. The academic standards were a point of considerable pride.

So what did George Bush learn at Harvard when he took time out from drinking?

The very first lesson drummed-into new students, as they file into the classrooms of Aldrich Hall, is that management consists of decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. There is never perfect information, and decisions often have to be made even when you’d really prefer to know a lot more. Given this reality, students are taught many techniques for analyzing the data which is available, extracting the non-obvious facets, learning how read into it the reasonable inferences which can be made, while quantifying the risks of doing so, and learning the costs and value of obtaining additional data.

The job of the executive of to weigh probabilities in evaluating imperfect information; to assess the costs and benefits of acting or not acting; and to construct scenarios around the various possible time frames for taking action, taking into account the probable reactions of the other vital actors. That political opponents at home carp at him over his imperfect data at the time is no surprise, and no reason to regret his decision. The costs of not acting were simply too great, and the downside potential of erroneous information too low to prefer inaction. Better data would have been preferable, of course, but President Bush shows no sign of remorse for doing what he knows was the prudent thing under the circumstances.

Good stuff as usual, from The American Thinker.

Posted by dan at May 2, 2004 2:28 PM