Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just as I was starting to respect business school . . .

Hard Slog to Learning Management
Photo by Lisa Mintzberg
New York Times

In the past few years, I had begun to re-evaluate my long-ago undergraduate disdain for university business schools, but a business school professor himself now tells me I'm wrong to think I was wrong, or so reports D. D. Guttenplan in "The Anti-MBA" (NYT, May 20, 2012):
A professor of management studies at McGill University in Montreal, Dr. [Henry] Mintzberg holds two graduate degrees in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But since at least 2004, when he published his book "Managers Not M.B.A.s," he has acquired a hard-earned reputation as the scourge of conventional management education. The rise of the business-school-trained M.B.A., he says, is "a menace to society."

"The philosophy of the case study method is that you simulate management practice on the basis of reading a 20 page study. George W. Bush went to Harvard Business School and I don't think he even read 20 pages. But he's a good example of how disastrous that approach can be," Dr. Mintzberg said.

Professor Mintzberg may be right about the case-study method, for all I know, but he's wrong to use President Bush as an example if he doubts that Bush read even twenty pages. Assuming he's even right about Bush's laziness, then our ex-president didn't do the homework and can't be used as an example of what's wrong with the MBA system. Perhaps the good professor suffers from B.D.S., a condition that blocks rational thinking about George W. Bush, else he'd realize that only an assiduous student can be used as an example for what's wrong with the case-study method of management training. But I have to admit that Professor Mintzberg's course in management training seems to belong to a small category of special management courses that offer a lot of fun in the learning process:
Of all the management courses in all the world, there are probably a few others that tell students they will need hiking boots and waterproof jackets.

There may be a few that put "The Prelude," the 19th-century poet William Wordsworth's autobiographical masterpiece, on their reading lists, or that drag high-flying executives to a Quaker meeting for a period of silent reflection . . . . [Professor Mintzberg's International Masters Program in Practical Management, for its part,] is a 16-month course whose most recent session began last week with a module here in the Lake District of England . . . . [T]he program's five modules take place in Brazil, Britain, Canada, China and India. Each lasts 10 days, is delivered by a different academic partner and is devoted to a different management mind-set. The most recent [British] module, run by Lancaster University Management School, was intended to foster the "reflective mind-set."

The participants will meet next in Montreal, where the focus will be on the "analytic mind-set," followed by a stint at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, where they will develop their "worldly mind-set" . . . . After India, the next session is at the Renmin University School of Business in Beijing, where the students explore ideas of collaboration and cooperation from a Chinese perspective. Finally the students meet at the Fundação Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janiero to look at how to manage continuity and change and other aspects of the "action mind-set."

The article doesn't specify the Beijing module's "mind-set," though I'm guessing it isn't "guanxi mind-set" or "maiguan mind-set," unless "collaboration" and "cooperation" are code words, respectively, but if there's hiking and drinking involved in all of these modules, then the experience is perhaps rather like what the Koreans call "Membership Training," which might clarify why "LG and the Korean steel manufacturer POSCO each sent a group of executives to the most recent program in Britain."

I can't imagine they were sent to learn about guanxi or maiguan . . .

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At 2:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not too many comments lately? I cannot really comment on the tactics used when teaching or taking courses under a business management degree. I do know there is some value in the case study approach, however; in my opinion, nothing teaches good management better than working for good, and bad, managers and taking the best traits and molding them into your own style. One thing I enjoy about my work is no one is telling me I have to stick to one style of management or do things I do not believe in or are against our policies.

My company has three basic beliefs - 1) Respect for the Individual, 2) Service to our Customers, and 3) Strive for Excellence. I have found almost anything can be resolved by adhering to those principles. Every associate (employee) or customer is unique. The best managers understand this and look for the things the customer needs to stay happy and the associate needs to continue to work at their optimum best. Is it easy, not really, however; when it works it is as if something akin to magic has just happened. - Jay

At 3:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Those are three good principles. They could apply as well to the teaching profession.

As for comments . . . well, they come, and they go, but a new post will always appear.

The day it doesn't, look for me in the funny papers . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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