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Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development Hardcover – May 16, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Two decades ago, Mintzberg, a professor at McGill University who was then teaching MBAs at MIT, discovered a profound "disconnect between the practice of management... and what went on in classrooms." Since that time, he has dedicated himself to the problems of management and management education, both of which he believes are "deeply troubled," and the latter of which has become the wrong that he, with help from colleagues around the world, must right. Using words like "arrogance," "mindless" and "exploitation," Mintzberg outlines just what is wrong with MBAs (the people and the degrees) and why the degree he's developed is rooted in the real world and, as such, is far more relevant and valuable to students, companies and the business world at large. Strong economies are based on good management, not on good business schools, Mintzberg believes, and because the top companies employ the top MBAs and the top MBAs (not to mention the mediocre and bottom-level degree-holders) are, or so he says, the products of an out-of-touch and unrealistic graduate program, then the effects of this miseducation can be felt far beyond the classroom walls. Mintzberg's argument is clearly researched and set forth in a progressively logical and even convincing way. Managers and manager wannabes will be intrigued and can certainly learn a thing or two as long as they, as Mintzberg himself urges in his teachings, consider the source of the education.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Conventional MBA programs train the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences," states this academic and author, who here examines and proposes drastic change in our traditional form of management education. He believes MBA programs are schools of business that pretend to develop managers, and he addresses such issues as what can be done to develop managers in a serious educational process, offering a critique of MBA programs and an analysis of the practice of management itself. Mintzberg's recommendations include program changes, as well as his observations on faculty tenure, prima donnas, and entrenched thinking. He believes MBA programs have failed to develop better managers who should be improving their organizations and thereby creating a better society. This book offers an important perspective for the global MBA community, which serves its students, business, and society in general. Although some may disagree with the author's views, at the very least his insight should^B foster discussion and lead to action, as appropriate. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The book consists of two parts. The first part is called "Not MBA" and takes slightly less than half of the book. The second part is called "Developing Managers" and takes the rest of the book. Obviously the first part is "what is wrong with management education" and the second "how to fix it".
The first part contains seven chapters, each focusing on an aspect that is wrong with MBA-like education, starting with wrong people. Mintzberg has very little positives to say about MBA-like education. Wrong people, wrong content, wrong way of teaching leading to arrogant people and dangerous results. I especially liked the parts where he dived in the history of why the education is this way.
The second part consists of eight chapters of which the majority is about the IMPM (International Masters of Practicing Managers) program of which the author is one of the founders. Most of this part is simply the reverse of the previous part. Whereas the first part stated, we do A but should do B, which part states, we do B. This makes the book repetitive... probably too repetitive. That said, the stories of the students of the IMPM do make up for that a bit again.
All in all, this is a good and solid book about management education. If you are looking for the topic of management itself, skip this book and go for some other books (e.g. Managing from Mintzberg). If you are involved in setting up a management education program, then this is the book for you. I decided to give it three stars because (1) the book is too repetitive, and (2) I think it should have had IMPM in the title or sub-title as nearly half of the book is actually about that.
The division of the book into the critique of the typical American MBA program which sets the standard that most of the world follows and the radical alternative advocated by, is intended, I believe, that Dr. Mintzberg is no mere destroyer.
I do not , myself, believe that it is the duty of the reviewer to merely sumarise the contents of a book but more to place it in the context of the greater picture under investigation and to try and determine the value of it.
In my humble opinion the question of management education specifically and business education in general is one which requires clarification, investigation and evaluation. It seems to me that in the United States the fundamental basis of universities is primarily vocational as opposed to discovering knowledge and new concepts and ideas. In that they reflect the needs of the multinational corporations and other large corporate entities for trained workers to the highest level. Economies of scale in production require extensive specialization in corporate organisations which coexist with the community of researchers who need to market their discoveries on a continental scale. This corporate dominance can be seen in the range of competing MBA programs across the world all producing similar outputs and competing in terms of reputation and testimonials.
The main impetus for graduates wishing to undergo an MBA experience is relatively simple, it is responding to the incentive structure which offers the MBA holder a higher relative wage, usually by entering the upper ranks of management on the basis of a paper qualification yet without prior expertise. As an aside, one of the sad trends that I have observed is the folding of economics into schools of business subsuming it's intellectual journey into an activity dependent on formalism and mathematics rather than base the discipline on people.
There are some very interesting little nuggets scattered throughout the book like the innovative ideas being generated by non-American universities for instance.
There is another, what I believe to be a false dichotomy being exposed by the book and that is the catch all phrase of manager used to describe the analysts who make decisions based on data and managers who deal everyday with people and who are problem solving mostly based on wits and experience and general education but who generate innovative solutions to those issues. Bu implication, the usefulness of MBA programs to deal with notions such as leadership, and more importantly innovation must raise serious questions.
I am sure that this book is greatly criticized by those who have benefitted financially and status wise from the MBA certificate but we have seen in some of the major scandals of the last 20 years the use of those techniques taught therein can be used against shareholders. Somewhere along the line, large corporations have lost the notion that it is the customer that counts and the corrosive effects of option schemes and bonuses have catapulted shareholder value to the front of the queue where greed is good. As an aside, I am a firm believer in markets yet I see those at the top enriching themselves at a great cost to customers. When the customers can no longer purchase goods and services, shareholder value will suffer but probably after highly paid MBA grads have upped sticks and left for pastures greener.
What this book so eloquently demonstrates to me is that diversity matters. There are no simple stencils that can be applied to all enterprises, monopolies cannot stay in that position for ever and every day people who have ideas and not necessarily formal education can generate businesses which succeed despite the rigged markets (sorry, level playing fields), and a host of other small and medium sized enterprises generate innovative solutions to difficult problems which arise and threaten their business. Radical as it is, the idea that practicing business people are better at business than professors in business schools has much to commend it.
It would be good to see an assessment of how these alternative prospectuses have done over the last 20 years and I would like to offer the notion as a doctoral thesis for someone wishing to explore the ideas further.