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Stata: Firms should focus on employee satisfaction

Startup companies need to focus less on new products and technologies and more on the personal side of the business -- satisfying the needs of employees, customers and stockholders. That was the message delivered by Ray Stata (SB 1957, SM), chair of Analog Devices, who spoke at the May 20 satellite broadcast sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Forum, Inc.

His presentation on "The Soft Side of the Enterprise" was broadcast to 15 downlinked sites across North America. Moderating the discussion was Paul Brountas, a senior partner in Hale and Dorr LLP.

The need to satisfy customers and stockholders has always been paramount; the new emphasis on satisfying employees comes from Mr. Stata's view that people are a company's most effective strategic weapon. There has been a "shift in the way organizations are managed," he said, with increasing emphasis on team-based, cross-functional approaches to management.

Business leaders should encourage "others to make decisions and -- more than decisions -- to make commitments and to take ownership for outcomes," he said. "By articulating a compelling vision, the leader leads through enrollment and inspiration."

Once that compelling vision is in place, Mr. Stata emphasized, "goal number one for leaders is attracting and retaining the human resources required to achieve the vision. Goal number two is creating a work environment where people are motivated to work productively and harmoniously together at their peak capacity.

"In our quest for more democratic management, it is important not [to] disempower our leaders," he said. "Great leaders first and foremost know that they must win the trust and support of the organization in order to have the slack to be courageous and bold and to sometimes be wrong."

Mr. Stata emphasized the need for new companies to "consciously create an environment and culture in which trustful, high-quality relationships are encouraged and in which mutual respect and understanding of differences in background, beliefs and points of view are valued."

Long active in the high technology industry and in public service, Mr. Stata helped found the Massachusetts High Technology Council and was its first president. He was also on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award board of overseers and the Executive Committee of the Council on Competitiveness. He and his wife Maria have donated $25 million to MIT for the creation of the Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences.

Founded in 1978, the MIT Enterprise Forum operates through a network of 19 Association of Alumni/ae chapters around the world. The Satellite Broadcast Series features well-known alumni/ae, professors and friends of the Institute discussing topics of special interest to entrepreneurs.

Previous broadcasts have featured presentations by Professor Michael Dertouzos, director of the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS); Alex D'Arbeloff (SB 1949), chair of the MIT Corporation; Edward B. Roberts (SB 1957, SM, PhD), the David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at the Sloan School; Robert S. Langer, the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering; Robert M. Metcalfe (SB 1968), past president of the Association of Alumni/ae and inventor of the Ethernet; and Tim Berners-Lee, LCS principal research scientist, holder of the 3Com Founders Chair and inventor of the World Wide Web.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 32).

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