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Alumni Study Proposes Business-Gov't. Contact

By Philip M. Boffey

How successfully does the government utilize the talents of leading business executives in the country?

Not very, according to a survey just completed by the Harvard Business School Club of Washington, D.C.

Working under the direction of Wilford L. White of the Small Business Administration, a team of volunteers spent the past three years studying "businessmen in government," their experiences, reactions, difficulties, and the disinterest of the business community in having them serve in Washington.

The investigators' central conclusion is that the United States will never be able to stand up in the race with the Soviet Union if it can't get better men in the government for longer periods.

Part of the difficulty lies in business attitudes. The survey found that "there exists a frightening lack of interest in the business community for participation in the government service," and that companies and most businessmen look upon serving the government more as a "career detour" than as an opportunity for "broadened experience."

Recommends Policy Change

The survey recommended that large corporations review their policies to avoid making it difficult for executives to serve the government, that business schools place greater emphasis on research in government problems, and that the trade press expand its coverage of the whole area of government administration.

Major recommendations were also made regarding government policy in hiring and training these top executives. The investigators found that 48 per cent of those questioned who had previously worked for the government served for less than one year, largely because the government hired many for only a six-month period.

The report recommended that the White House expand its contact with businessmen, that the party in power make greater efforts to fit "square pegs in square holes, round pegs in round holes," and that the party out of power anticipate its ascendancy by making plans to bring in the right people.

Primarily based on questionnaires, to which the investigators received 1576 usable replies, the survey also included 70 "depth" interviews, as well as many unsolicited letters and calls.

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