November 1, 2011 at 6:40pm
There's a crisis in management, and that's because everyone is fighting fires with the same old methods. It is like being on a treadmill that you can't get off. The process of skilling the people involved in management has to change.
Let's face it, there's a serious dearth of innovation in the world today. Most of the problems that have been around for the last 10 years haven't gone away. There are new ones in the newspaper every day and there aren't too many fixes. That's not because people aren't trying harder. I would argue that most everyone is working harder than they have ever worked before, burning the midnight oil, but with little success.
The problem isn't about what leaders already know, it's about them having stopped learning in the holistic sense of the word. Sure they put out fires at the office every day, but its the same thing over and over again. Unfortunately, those quick fixes aren't working very effectively any longer.
The model for corporate leadership has increasingly become a species called 'MBAmo Erectus'. A whirlwind 2 years in an Ivy League college and young executives are wearing pin stripes and an Armani suit and calling the shots. The problem is that there are too many of the same kind of people making the same decisions. There aren't enough people that Steve Jobs would call the 'crazy ones'.
The MBA has become the qualification of choice for people keen to make a corporate career. While it might have begun as an earnest attempt to skill green horns in the discipline of management, the dynamics of the demand for talent have taken it in another direction altogether. The duration of courses are becoming shorter, and the fees are getting higher! In truth, a management education has become an expensive ticket that gives you a million dollar interview opportunity. The stringent entry barriers and multiple hurdles ensure that the quality going in is the best. With a few fancy electives thrown in during the duration of the course, the finished product is ready to wow interviewers during the placement season.
Management lives in the people that practice this discipline. There's little hope for a brighter future if we don't fix the content and messages that we are giving these young impressionable minds. The time has come to rethink the education and skills that we provide young people that enter the profession of Management.
There are no easy solutions to a problem that is so entrenched, that people don't know when it began. My sense is that it began the day big money came to recruitment week.
Management education has to become about Mastery, the constant pursuit of excellence. It has to become more holistic to include a much wider range of subjects. It must challenge students to reflect on the current state of the world and where it is headed if we don't step in and do something about it.
So here are 5 hacks that I would push for:
1. The duration of the course has to be longer. To become a Master of anything, one has to put in the hours of practice. Ask any world-class tennis player what they spend most of their time doing. Practice. Practice. Practice. Two years inside a classroom with a couple of months interning is hardly any practice at all. A couple of years practicing management in the workplace would add tremendous perspective to their classroom learning. It is also probably one of the factors behind the rise in popularity of a part time MBA that one does while working.
2. Overhaul the curriculum to include more disciplines. Increasingly complex problems that beset the world today require an inter-disciplinary approach to resolve. Linearity is a thing of the past. Throw in courses on design, collaboration in the animal kingdom, poverty, global warming, chaos theory, art, music etc.
3. Cap starting salaries. Choices are driven by incentives and a handsome sign on bonus will drive most budding Einstein’s to pursue a career in investment banking over the social sector.
4. Charge companies 10X of what they currently pay to visit and recruit. The money Ivy Leagues save corporates by assembling the best talent available across the country is significant, so they will keep paying! Use that money to make teaching one of the highest paying professions.
5. Don't teach solutions. A business education has a significant number of assessments in order to be able to grade or calibrate student performance. As a result most graduate carry a solution mindset for the rest of their lives. The end result is that young minds don't ask enough questions. We need people to ask big questions if we want big change.
If these were to be implemented, we would begin to see a more grounded, capable, mature and skilled set of people entering management every year. Not only would they be more competent, they would also push for change of the right kind rather than fall into rank and perpetuate what we currently have.
This hack calls for a dramatic change in the attitude toward a management education. It calls for an immersion in many disciplines so that practitioners start to see connections, develop perspectives and think beyond a pay packet at the end of two years. It needs for employers to desist from buying talent at ever increasing prices and instead focus on drawing people with a shared vision to them.
It calls for students of management to spend a longer time skilling themselves in order for them to be able to contribute meaningfully, rather than just marching to the tune of a corporate behemoth.
The outcome of the hacks I have suggested would be a radical shift in the quality and competence of the people joining the profession of management. Over a period of time, the very moral fabric of management would change from one of unabashed capitalism to a more inclusive socialism.
To start, an organization would need to stop visiting B School campuses and doing the usual run of the mill recruitment. It would also mean dropping salaries and reaching out to a much wider audience of schools and programs. The recruitment practices of top paying companies are what drive the smartest best students to abandon their passions and pursue hefty pay packets.
A quick and dirty experiment would be to spend more time, energy and effort in the recruitment process to get the right people in the right jobs, rather than just to get the best and put their ample intelligence to use on whatever problem they are currently grappling with.
Indian School of Business