Monday, June 28, 2004

Managers, not MBAs - Leadership is 'Contextual'

Chanced to see the article about Henry Mintzberg's latest book - Managers not MBAs. Of course, I'm scouting to get and read a copy ASAP. This sounds very confrontational and I like such books that question fundamental conventions every once a while. It helps to look within ourselves and see where we're headed for and understand if that's right. Well, today Management Education is a premium business what with multinational and domestic brands battling it out for the young customer group!

In my own views about MBA, I've felt that it's very necessary for an aspiring manager or leader to get a reinforcing course in the management fundamentals. But, that certainly adds value only after one has learnt the ropes of what it is to 'manage' or to 'lead'. It is not of much value to attain 'managerhood' or 'leaderhood' with just 2 years of formal education and getting into the workplace with a 'halo'! I join a long list of 'management-for-the-experienced' siders.

Quoted here from Pearson:
"Because conventional MBA programs are designed for people without managerial experience, they overemphasize analysis and denigrate experience. That leaves a distorted impression of management, which has had a corrupting influence on its practice."

I couldn't agree more. Though I've not had the chance to work with fresh graduate-MBAs, as I'm doing one now, I do realise that apart from very few subjects such as Strategic Management, most other subjects are geared towards 'analysis' and 'measurements' that there's a perceptible lack of clarity on workplace situations. In most globally competitive and enterprising companies, managers need to accord top priority to identify growth engines, find out ways to fundamentally improve the business and react to changing economic and global conditions. Analysis of data, though useful, plays a 'support service' role vis-a-vis the overall perspectives, judgement and instincts of the managers.

Again quoted here from Pearson:
"The MBA trains the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences." Mintzberg writes. "Using the classroom to help develop people already practicing management is a fine idea, but pretending to create managers out of people who have never managed is a sham."

For all this, Mintzberg is a Professor of Management at the McGill University, Montreal and is credited with insightful works on strategic planning.

So, do you think management education for fresh graduates is useful or sub-optimal?