The creation of Advanced Systems Division (ASD) represents the kind of business and product development you might find most relevant to your enterprise. Operating in start-up mode, we developed innovative vehicle health monitoring products for railway transit vehicles (first customer being Metro North Commuter Rail). ASD's largest project was the Advanced Automatic Train Control (AATC) system being developed for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in collaboration with Hughes Aircraft under the largest Technology Reinvestment Program (TRP) in the history of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). AATC is a precursor to the Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system at NYC Transit. Other development projects included Iron Highway advanced multimodal freight system, Green Train in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, and Electropneumatically Controlled (ECP) Braking for the freight railroad industry.
Anyone dealing with major growth opportunities will surely want to take a look at some of my accomplishments at the Corporate Headquarters of the Xerox Corporation (1970-1978). Responsibilities included corporate level strategic planning and program management. The mandated goal: Grow the enterprise at the rate of $1 billion per year per year!
Assignments required management of company-wide product developments budgeted at $360 million per year plus administration of research projects totalling $50 million, creation of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). My staff and I ('The Kitchen Cabinet') were called upon to review business proposals based on strategic objectives and to initiate key programs, including strategic acquisitions, constantly adjusting priorities for resource constraints, diplomatically resolving conflicts. The financial results for that time speak for themselves.
During 15 years at the Xerox Corporation, I dealt with business developments from all sides: (a) advocating proposals, (b) justifying programs within line organizations, (c) challenging projections, and (c) reviewing performance in senior staff assignments.
Later, at American Automation (1984-1990), I took a line position and achieved 10-fold increases in sales and profits for an instrumentation product line in the face of strong competition, with minimal support staff, administering a network of manufacturers' representatives and distributor organizations throughout Europe and the Pacific Rim.
At Computer Automation, I took over a desultory engineering organization and within two years (1981-1984) and through effective management of professional staff numbering more than 130 persons in three geographic locations, formally releasing to manufacturing twenty-five successful products, enabling the company to attain its historic peak in financial performance
As a consultant to the management of Advanced Patent Technology (1978-1981), which had never been profitable since its founding in 1969, I guided a half-dozen diverse business developments and licensing programs, setting the company on a course of high growth and profitability.
Throughout my professional career, I have been privileged to participate in -- often to lead -- business start-ups. The most spectacular was Scientific Data Systems (1963-1970), in which I formed five departments, two becoming divisions. The company was acquired by Xerox for nearly $1 billion.
As a technical consultant to management (1978-1982), I have done the business planning for several start-ups. The most significant being Video Computer Systems, Inc. (VCS), which applied the most advanced technology of its time in video animation and special effects for television commercials and program openers. Through a sequence of business developments from 1979 through 2004, VCS has evolved into Worldtainment, Inc., parent of Voice Factory International (VFI), where I serve as Chairman of the Board.
The VCS experience and others came in handy at Morrison Knudsen (MK), where I led a management team in the creation of the Advanced Systems Division (ASD). Despite MK's financial straits in its core business at that time, ASD quickly became established as a technology leader in electronic products for the transportation industry, beginning with BART's Advanced Automatic Train Control system developed in collaboration with Hughes Aircraft Company under a $20 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Not all of the internal operations of the Xerox Corporation were destined for success. While serving on the corporate staff (1970-1978), one of my toughest assignments was remedial.
Two divisions, both managed by heroic figures from the company's history, reported exceptionally poor operating results from diversification products, which had already been introduced. My analyses disclosed the awful truths: that in one case (a medical technology), the equipment would never become cost-effective and that in the other (a communications system), there was insufficient market potential to warrant continued investment. My recommendation -- to put both divisions through an orderly shut-down process -- was accepted by Xerox's top management. I was then given a new and painful assignment...to put both divisions through an orderly shut-down process.
Dealing with the complex development issues faced by companies today will demand sagacious application of many instruments of management. There will be no single formula for successful programs. Rational analysis of technical and business alternatives will preceed many difficult decisions, and organizational performance will require consensus building.
Since the mid-sixties, I have been invited to teach innovative disciplines to managements with widely variant time horizons. Sophisticated managers have come to realize that there are essential business insights other than those obtained from periodic financial statements.
As a student of -- and a strong advocate for -- 'Situational Leadership', I favor managers adapting to subordinates, not vice-versa. There are salient modes for dealing with people, which take into account distinct human attributes in the realms of motivation, knowledge, and capabilities. Critical listening skills are essential to diligent accountability. Choosing the correct mode case-by-case takes concentrated effort but produces fulfillment and individual achievements as well as cost/effective long-term organizational performance.
In an environment characterized by rapid changes in both technology and organizational expectations plus gyrating metrics, planning imperatives can outstrip the conventional tools. Over the years, I have worked with the best management consultants (Institute for the Future, Boston Consulting Group, Hudson Institute), in the development of new methodologies; some have become -- well, conventional (Delphi, Decision Analysis, Consensor).
You are invited to read the transcript of a speech I gave to the National Convention of the Intercollegiate Honors Society (The Future is Not What it Used to Be), which reviewed the Xerox experience, giving emphasis to one management innovation, The Rational Process.
5 Rue du Poudouvre
Selected Books and Papers by Paul Niquette