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Imagine an “emba” that engages managers beyond administration

5 April 2019

There is plenty of business education, but hardly any management education. As a manager who is performing well, but wishing to perform better, should you do an EMBA? Not if it is about the administration of business rather than the practice of managing. Do you really want to sit in a nice neat row listening to lectures about action, or formulating strategies for companies you know nothing about while your own first-hand experience is being ignored? How about an emba that engages you as a manager, beyond administration.

Three Wrongs

For years, I went around giving talks at business schools about what is wrong with regular MBA education for management, namely that it trains the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences.

The people are wrong, because they lack the necessary experience. You have to live management to learn management. A manager cannot be created in a classroom.

There is plenty of business education, but hardly any management education. As a manager who is performing well, but wishing to perform better, should you do an EMBA? Not if it is about the administration of business rather than the practice of managing. Do you really want to sit in a nice neat row listening to lectures about action, or formulating strategies for companies you know nothing about while your own first-hand experience is being ignored? How about an emba that engages you as a manager, beyond administration.

Three Wrongs

For years, I went around giving talks at business schools about what is wrong with regular MBA education for management, namely that it trains the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences.

The people are wrong, because they lack the necessary experience. You have to live management to learn management. A manager cannot be created in a classroom.

The ways are wrong because they focus on what management is not. Management is a practice, where the art of vision, the craft of experience, and the science of analysis meet. Since the art cannot be taught and the craft can only be learned from experience, MBA programs rely on the science, by teaching analysis and technique, or else they use the disconnected experience of case studies.  One gives the impression that managing is about modeling and measuring, the other that it is about posturing and pronouncing (see Jack’s turn).

And this produces the wrong consequences, by distorting how too many MBAs practice management: as disconnected leadership. (For what happens when these managers become CEOs, see some troubling evidence.) Upon graduation, MBAs should be stamped with a skull and crossbones on their foreheads: Warning! Not prepared to manage.

EMBA programs take many of the right people—with managerial experience—and then train them in the same ways with the same consequences. Indeed, for years promotion for the top-rated Wharton EMBA boasted that it gives the students the same as they get in the regular MBA. Imagine that: nothing more for people with managerial experience!

Don’t get me wrong: Many MBA programs do a fine job of developing people for certain specialized jobs in business, such as financial analysis and marketing research. They just need to stop confusing this with the practice of managing.

Educating for Management

As I gave those talks, people started asking me the question that should never be asked of an academic: “What are you doing about it?” (We academics are supposed to criticize, not do anything about anything.) Duly embarrassed, in 1996 I teamed up with colleagues at prominent business schools around the world to change how management is taught, and practiced. We created the International Masters Program for Managers (impm.org), followed later by the International Masters for Health Leadership (imhl.org), and CoachingOurselves.com.

I remain personally involved in parts of the design and delivery of all these programs, and, frankly, they are wonderful, even if I have to say so myself. (I don’t. For example, a senior manager in banking said: “Now, four and a half years later, I am left with the distinct desire to do it all over again.” Other comments can be found on impm and imhl.)

While a manager cannot be created in a classroom, it is quite remarkable what a classroom of experienced managers can do when they are given the chance to reflect on their own experience and share their insights with each other. T.S. Eliot wrote in one of his poems that “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” Management education should be about getting the meaning.

The managers—average age in the 40s, which can amount to half a millennium of experience—stay on the job, and attend five modules of 10 days each over 16 months, held in England, Canada, India, Japan, and Brazil. Other activities on the job are designed to use work rather than make work. These modules focus, not on the functions of business, but on the mindsets of managing:

  • The Reflective Mindset—managing self
  • The Analytic Mindset—managing organizations
  • The Worldly Mindset—managing context
  • The Collaborative Mindset—managing relationships
  • The Action Mindset—managing change

At the end of the very first module, in 1996, on the reflective mindset, while everyone else was going around saying “It was great meeting you!”, Alan Whelan, a sales manager at BT, was saying: “It was great meeting myself!” And in the worldly mindset, the managers meet their own world. We decided to call it “worldly” rather than “global” because the IMPM is not about becoming cookie-cutter global, it’s about getting into other people’s worlds to better understand their own world. This module is held in India, where the Indian managers in the program help their colleagues understand this other world.

We have a fifty-fifty rule in our classrooms: half the class time is turned over to the managers on their agendas. Hence they sit at round tables in a flat room so that they can go in and out of workshops at a moment’s notice. No need to “break out”. A variety of novel seating arrangements has resulted, including the use of keynote listeners at the tables and of inner circle discussions where people tap each other in and out of the conversations (see Don’t just sit there…).

Communityship beyond leadership

The managers in the IMPM are not lone wolves, parachuted into selfie-silos, as shown below. As indicated in the figure that follows, they are colleagues in a community of social learning, connected back to their home organizations. It has been said never to send a changed person back to an unchanged organization. But almost all management education and development programs do just that. We seek to do differently by asking the managers to form IMPact teams at work, to carry their learning back into their organizations for change. The manager in a small company who had to pick up the pieces after it had run into a serious problem reported that the IMPact team he created saved the company.

As suggested above, we favor communityship beyond leadership, in our programs and beyond. A number of innovations support this. For example, the concerns of each manager become the focus of friendly consulting by a small group of colleagues. One participant’s own manager had suddenly quit, and she was trying to decide whether to apply for the position. The hour of friendly consulting was so helpful that it continued over lunch.

In the managerial exchange, the IMPM managers pair up and spend the better part of a week at each other’s workplaces. The first time this happened, Mayur Vora travelled from his jam-and-jelly company in Pune, India to visit Françoise LeGoff, number two on the Africa desk at the International Federation of the Red Cross in Geneva. On the first day, Mayur saw Françoise typing and asked, “Can’t a secretary do that?” Welcome to the worldly mindset: Geneva is not Pune! On the last day, Mayur told Françoise he would be happy to meet with any of her staff. All of them lined up to convey various messages through him. Françoise reported that Mayur “was like a mirror for me.”

The MBA is fine so long as it is recognized for what it does well, namely train people for certain specialized jobs in business. But it must also be recognized for what it does badly, namely develop people to manage. Managing is too important to be left to the consequences of the MBA. it’s time for management education.

 

© Henry Mintzberg 2019. The next impm.org cohort begins in September.
This TWOG is adapted from a story in Bedtime Stories for Managers, which was adapted from one of 7 February 2017. For more on these programs, see Chapters 1-6 of my book Managers not MBAs; also the articles Looking Forward to Development, From Management Development to Organization Development with IMPact, and The five minds of a manager

The next step Greta…

23 March 2019

Dear Greta

Good for you. Thanks to your spirit, over a million youth have just marched for the sake of our future. What’s the next step?

You are 16, and concerned about climate change. I am 79, and concerned about it too, as well as the imbalance that fuels it. You sit in and give speeches about the problem. I write books and give speeches about the imbalance. You spoke bluntly at Davos, to “tepid” applause. No kidding! Years ago I spoke in the same forum and concluded that Davos is the place where many of the people who spend 51 weeks a year creating the problem spend the 52nd pretending to solve it. You are fed up with the inaction of your elders. I am fed up with the inaction of my youngers, who are the same people. For decades I have watched the problem growing steadily worse.

Dear Greta

Good for you. Thanks to your spirit, over a million youth have just marched for the sake of our future. What’s the next step?

You are 16, and concerned about climate change. I am 79, and concerned about it too, as well as the imbalance that fuels it. You sit in and give speeches about the problem. I write books and give speeches about the imbalance. You spoke bluntly at Davos, to “tepid” applause. No kidding! Years ago I spoke in the same forum and concluded that Davos is the place where many of the people who spend 51 weeks a year creating the problem spend the 52nd pretending to solve it. You are fed up with the inaction of your elders. I am fed up with the inaction of my youngers, who are the same people. For decades I have watched the problem growing steadily worse.

Our world is dangerously out of balance in favor of private sector interests that dominate our governments and our communities. These interests feed on the prevailing dogma of economics—that greed is good, markets are sacred, and governments are suspect—to bring us more production for more consumption with more waste and more warming.

Sit-ins and marches wake up people who are concerned but have not been active. But do they wake up the people most responsible for the problem? Was Donald Trump woken up by the massive marches after his election? If anything, he was amused. Were the financial sharks of Wall Street woken up by the occupation of their street? Mostly, I imagine, they were inconvenienced. In the white houses and behind the front streets are the backrooms where greed continues to reign supreme. And the problem goes well beyond this. The beneficiaries of this globalized world are doing very well the way things are, thank you, and that includes most of the people I know, and probably many that you know too. The icecaps may be melting, but the homes on the hills are safe from flooding—for now, at least.

What, then, has to happen—what’s the next step? You have been blunt; let me be likewise in my answer, quoting two lines from a song by Tom Lehrer about the Spanish civil war: “Though [Franco] may have won all the battles, we had all the good songs!” I like good songs too, but we had better start winning some battles.

We will have to do so by challenging specific behaviors that can no longer be tolerated—let’s call them the low-hanging outrages. They have to be targeted with clever campaigns that have teeth. Here’s a simple illustration. Some years ago, in San Antonio, Texas, people who were fed up with their utility company overpaid their bills by 1¢. That simple cent, multiplied many times over, tied this bureaucracy in knots. It backed off. From the local schoolyard to the global marketplace, it is amazing how an unexpected tactic can bring down a big bully. Just as David brought down Goliath.

There is no shortage of low-hanging outrages from which to pick. They just have to be picked carefully, to avoid, not only what could become violent, but also what can be seen as self-serving (such as university students protesting university fees).  The campaigns have to be lawful, altruistic, and, above all, clever—like that 1¢ one. There is as much imagination in the world as there are indecencies that need to be confronted by it.

Saul Alinsky wrote remarkable books about how, while liberals talk, radicals act: they rally around common cause. You sat down in front of the Swedish parliament. Good. Now surround it with thousands of you and don’t leave until you get action on those emissions. The people who pitched their tents on Wall Street can go after specific shenanigans taking place inside the buildings on that street; these are a veritable goldmine of outrages, not least, the appropriation of so much of wealth. In my own country, Canada, we can stop coddling the producers of some of the dirtiest oil on earth. And how about those of us on the consumption side of this problem, who do things like turn up the heat instead of putting on a sweater? We, too, are the exploiters, by appropriating too much of the world’s energy.

Does this mean civil disobedience? Not at all: it is civil and it is obedient.  Today’s civil disobedience comes from the people who violate human decency, those responsible for the legal corruption that has become so rampant.

So: you want people to “feel the power”? That you have already demonstrated. You claim “that the people will rise to the challenge.” This is the next step that needs to be demonstrated—by you youngers and we elders together.

Sköt om dig

Henry
(mintzberg.org)

Fake Facts from and for all

9 March 2019

Fake facts are deplorable, no question. But they have been inundating societies, and not only American, long before Donald Trump came along—even if he does take political theatre to a new level. Recall the fake facts of past elections; count the advertisements today that lie by omission if not commission, including those that sell politicians like detergents; consider what some of the TV networks and tabloids have been doing for years, now joined by more brazen blogs.

Who these days doesn’t play loose and easy with the facts, from celebrities who endorse products they don’t use, and physicians who dismiss “alternate” forms of treatment they don’t understand, to economists who claim to have won a Nobel Prize that doesn’t exist? (Economists at the National Bank of Sweden created that prize for other economists. Check out “Not a Nobel Prize” buried in nobelprize.org.)

Fake facts are deplorable, no question. But they have been inundating societies, and not only American, long before Donald Trump came along—even if he does take political theatre to a new level. Recall the fake facts of past elections; count the advertisements today that lie by omission if not commission, including those that sell politicians like detergents; consider what some of the TV networks and tabloids have been doing for years, now joined by more brazen blogs.

Who these days doesn’t play loose and easy with the facts, from celebrities who endorse products they don’t use, and physicians who dismiss “alternate” forms of treatment they don’t understand, to economists who claim to have won a Nobel Prize that doesn’t exist? (Economists at the National Bank of Sweden created that prize for other economists. Check out “Not a Nobel Prize” buried in nobelprize.org.)

In his New York Times column of 8 February 2018, Thomas Friedman described the United States as “the world’s strongest guardian of truth, science and democratic norms.” Excuse me Mr. Friedman, did you not notice Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, Iraq, Pinochet’s Chile, incursions into so many countries of Latin America and elsewhere, etc. Talk about selective memory. Friedman is hardly alone, even among liberal American commentators (Madeline Albright, George Soros), in continuing to promote this image of noble America, as if there has never also been a nasty America.

In actual fact—so to speak—the real winner of the fake facts sweepstakes has to be, not Donald Trump of America, but Vladimir Putin of Russia. He saw a huge opening in the fragmentation of American society and used the country’s own social media to ram fake facts straight through it.

How could such a thing have happened? Might the answer lie in America’s great strength as well as its debilitating weakness: an inclination to favor personal action over mutual reflection? Too often, reflection gets lost in the sheer pace and pressure of American life, the relentlessness of change in this mass and mobile society. David Brooks wrote in his New York Times column of 15 October 2018 about the “cult conformity” that has displaced “individual thought” in America. Join the kindred club that promotes the facts you prefer—Trump, Sanders, anti-globalization, pro-life, whatever—and once there, don’t work it out, let alone think it through: fight it out.

This reluctance to reflect can be found from “Make America great again” for the excluded, and “Fix capitalism to fix society” for the entitled, to “If freedom is to prevail…American leadership is urgently required” for the establishment (Madeleine Albright in the New York Times, 6 April 2018). All this while freedom falters, capitalism breaks, and leadership crumbles. Here we have, not the wisdom of crowds, but the clamor of groupthink—or, we can say, fakethink. Let’s drown it in that swamp.

 

© Henry Mintzberg 2019. For his desperate effort to help reverse this, see Rebalancing Society…radical renewal beyond left, right, and center (free download). The book can also be ordered online here.

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