Five Qs: Scott DeRue on Companies Meeting Their Goals


Scott DeRue, associate dean of the Michigan Ross Executive Education program at the University of Michigan, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about his goals for the organization and meeting the needs of today’s companies amidst a changing marketplace.

1. DDN: How does your organization differ from a consulting firm?

SD: A traditional consulting firm is largely paid to come in and diagnose the need; develop their point of view and a potential solution to that need, problem, or opportunity; and come back and present that to the client. And the client can take it or leave it. We have a very different approach. We also diagnose what the need is, whether it’s a leadership talent need, a strategic growth and innovation need, or an operations need. But then what we do is develop a series of programs that develops the skillset and the mindset within our client so that they can go address that need, that problem, or that opportunity.

2. DDN: What changes are planned for your programming?

SD: Our portfolio has a very strong portfolio of programs that are (open to the public). Going forward, if we look five to seven years out, we will continue to grow that open portfolio, but we will also grow our custom business, which has important implications for us. The best way to describe it is we are — and have been — moving from being an educational provider to a business partner.

3. DDN: What areas do you focus your efforts in?

SD: Our first priority is helping our clients develop a robust pipeline of leadership talent. In our research, over 60 percent of companies cite leadership talent gaps as their No. 1 business challenge, and nine out of 10 executives rate these leadership gaps as urgent to their business. That was not true 10 years ago.

4. DDN: Why has that changed?

SD: There’s a number of things going on in the market, so one difference is you have the baby boomer population that is looking toward retirement, the Millennials behind them, and it’s unclear what’s in between. And the way that gets articulated by companies is, “Our leadership talent is soon to retire and we’re unsure whose going to lead the company into the future because our Millennial generation is not yet ready to do that.”

Another explanation is that 15 to 20 years ago, the marketplace was actually a lot simpler. We weren’t as global. Some of what is now considered developed markets were not back then — China and India, for example. It was essentially the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and that world is fundamentally different now. It’s a global landscape that requires a business acumen that was not required 20 years ago. And so the need for sophisticated people who have the leadership skills and the business skills to lead these companies given the marketplace where these companies are competing in is just fundamentally different.

5. DDN: What else are you working on with your clients?

SD: Understanding how to proactively manage the financial markets — just think about public companies today and how much pressure they are under to meet quarterly numbers and the expectations of analysts. So we have a set of intellectual property, ideas, and data that really speaks to how executives at the senior-most level can proactively manage the communication and flow of information with the financial markets so that their companies are in a better position.