UPFRONT Letter to the editor

Let’s place the Mintzberg interview in last month’s issue in context. (Management magazine, July 2005, page 42 “Engaging leadership”). Like all things in life, not all schools of management or world-renowned business thinkers are equal. Neither are all MBAs. However, as leader in the field, Henry Mintzberg’s comments are always of interest especially if they are read and taken in context.
The interview with Mintzberg lumps all MBAs together when the reality is MBAs come in many shapes and sizes catering to different markets and therefore aiming for different outcomes. student with 15 years’ management experience has different needs to those of recent graduate with little or no management exposure within an organisation. In the interview Mintzberg says that the traditional style MBA doesn’t use experience at all. Mintzberg considers that learning from case studies isn’t experience “… it is voyeurism. People who are already practising management can learn from cases written about other people. But people who haven’t practised management can’t learn from them that easily.”
The message is that to gain maximum value from management qualification such as an MBA, you should first get management experience. If you are experienced then seek out an MBA that specifies minimum amount of management experience as pre-entry criterion. However, if you lack experience then you need to find programme to match your own experience and goals.
Another Mintzberg criticism is that MBAs don’t allow students sufficient time to reflect upon their learning. This criticism is justifiable if aimed at the one-year fulltime MBA so popular in the USA. Jeffrey Garten, recently interviewed on stepping down as dean of the Yale School of Management, was quoted as saying: “… to say that two-year business degree covers everything is simply not credible. It takes three years to get law degree, four to get medical degree. I think there’s real case to be made for three-year MBA. But there are no takers for this idea – no support from the academic establishment that I can tell, and meanwhile students are clamouring for one-year MBA because they’re anxious to get on the job and into the workforce.” (The Conference Board interview by J Vogl, editor of Across the Board, May/June 2005 www.conference-board.org
Mintzberg’s answer is the International Masters in Practising Management which he and Jonathan Gosling from Lancaster University set up in 1996. It is built around five two-week modules delivered over 18 months. To enrol in the IMPM you need to be an experienced manager, sponsored by your company and you are clustered in small groups. The course takes three years and involves reflection and sufficient opportunity for ideas to sink in. So where does this programme depart from the “MBA”? It all depends on which MBA you are referring to.
Alumni and current students of the Henley MBA will notice significant parallels between the IMPM and their own course of study. Henley, for example, is three-year part-time programme. Management experience is prerequisite and assignments are based upon the student’s own organisation.
Mintzberg’s criticism of MBAs needs to be viewed in context.

Patrick Merrick, director for the Henley Management College (UK) Associates,
Henley in New Zealand and Henley in Australia

Visited 6 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window