September 12, 2007 § 1 Comment

Here are some interesting words I found from a book called:


A hard look at the soft practice of managing and management development



What Should I Tell Robert?

Robert came to see me, the son of an old friend. He wanted to do an MBA. Where should he go?

That question comes up all the time. Bright young people, bored with a year or two of full-time work and looking for a better position somewhere else, see the MBA as a launching device. And I always give the same answer: Earn your leadership. Find an industry you like, get to know it, prove your potential, and practice management. Then get educated in management. Conventional MBA programs, I tell them, are a waste of time for managerial work; in fact, they can distort true managerial potential.

The eyes always glaze over at this point. No one actually says, “I came to find out which school to go to and you tell me this,” but that is what seems to be on their minds. Instead, they say (in good years), “But look what awaits me if I get an MBA from a good school: a big salary, an important job, recruiters falling all over me, maybe even a signing bonus like a football star—the fast track, the good life.” How could I tell Robert not to do the MBA?

Don’t worry. I haven’t done any harm in all this, because I doubt that a single one ever took my advice. They were all intent (as was I at that stage) to do the degree.

Until Joe came along. Same question. Same answer. But Joe’s eyes didn’t glaze over. At least he left wondering.

I’ve stayed in touch with Joe for several years now. A few months later he was accepted at a good business school. He decided not to go. Instead, he changed jobs. He loves his new work, he told me, and is learning a lot. He has doubts about the MBA now and is considering other options for further education.

Maybe there is hope.

Conventional MBA programs are specialized training in the functions of business, not general educating in the practice of managing. P.5

Using the classroom to help develop people already practicing management is fine idea, but pretending to create managers out of people who have never managed is a sham. P.5

Managers have to lead and Leaders have to manage. P.6

Management without leadership is sterile; Leadership without management is disconnected and encourages hubris. P.6

Management is Not A Science. Science is about the development of systematic knowledge through research. That is hardly the purpose of management. Management is not even an applied science, for that is still science. Management certainly applies science: managers have to use all the knowledge they can get, from the science and elsewhere. But management is more art, based on “insight,” “vision,” “intuition.” P.10

And most management is craft, meaning that it relies on experience – learning the job. This means it is as much about doing in order to think as thinking in order to do. P.10

Management is Not A Profession. … Because grade school teachers can easily carry their skills from one classroom to another, they can still be called professionals. But not so managers, who can hardly carry their skills from one function to another within the same organization, let alone across organizations or industries. In other word, knowledge about context is as portable in management as it is in education or engineering or medicine. That is why so many managers who have succeeded in one place fail in others (which is hardly true of teachers or engineers or physicians – so long as they stick to the skills they have). P.11-12

A Guest Manager?. Imagine a guest manager. The very idea seems absurd. How could anyone just come in and manage something? The manager must have a deep understanding of the context. Yet we accept substitute teachers who take over classrooms for a day, and doctors without borders who set up hospitals in hour. But temporary managers?

The obvious example is instructive – a guest conductor. A few rehearsal, and off go the musicians performing at the most prestigious concert halls in the world. The reason is simple: the whole exercise is highly programmed.

Most work that can be programmed in an organization need not concern its managers directly; specialists can be delegated to do it. That leaves the managers mostly with the messy stuff—the intractable problems, the complicated connections. And that is what makes the practice of management so fundamentally “soft” and why labels such as experience, intuition, judgment, and wisdom are so commonly used for it.

Here is how a successful manager at a major airline described her MBA husband to me: “He has the technique, thinks he knows best. But he is frustrated because he doesn’t understand the complexities and the politics. He thinks he has the answers but is frustrated by being unable to do anything about it.” He never learned management in the business school.

Formulation connects with implementation in two basic ways. Either the “formulator” controls implementation directly, as entrepreneurs often do, so that they can adapt their strategies en route. Or else the “implementors” play a key role in “formulation,” which is common in high technology and other venturing situations. Here management’s role is less to formulate than to facilitate—to encourage the strategic initiatives of others, listen carefully to their results, and help consolidate the best of these into emergent strategies and coherent visions. In a sense, management is more creative in the first approach, more generous in the second. Under the case study approach, students are instead encouraged to be analytical.

Can any manager hope to appreciate the future without a deep understanding of the past?

An interesting article appeared by J. L. Pfeffer in the International Herald Tribune in 1994. If you wish to know where not to put your money, the writer suggested, “Keep an eye on people long on greed, long on debt and short in foresight”—namely, “graduating MBAs”.

Companies generally do only two things of ultimate consequence: They make things, and they sell things. Not market things, not analyze things, not plan things, not control things.

…And selling has been totally absent. Not marketing, selling. There is an important difference. Selling takes place one-on-one. It is inductive, rooted in the specific, the concrete. Salespeople have to roll up their sleeves and face customers. So they live by their wits and draw on their experience. Marketing, in contrast, is removed even from markets, let alone customers and products. It works in aggregate terms, one-on-many. And so it tends to be more generic and more deductive, as well as more reliant on technique and analysis

To Be Continued…




§ One Response to MANAGERS NOT MBAS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading MANAGERS NOT MBAS at 1alinea.


%d bloggers like this: