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 / First Quarter 2002 / Issue 26(originally published by Booz & Company)


Reality Programming for MBAs

The ultimate test of the IMPM’s success is the accomplishments of its graduates. In this regard, evidence of the IMPM’s impact is reflected in the support of the companies that have participated. Although companies have not been asked to commit beyond a single year of the program, most of the original ones have returned for all six years. We believe the IMPM constitutes a radical new approach to management education that could be widely adopted, particularly for part-time executive MBA programs, also known as EMBAs.

The Five Mind-sets
It is important to get past the framework that dominates management education today — the functions of finance, human resources, marketing, and even strategy, taught as something apart from managing. A few business programs have tried to create a new structure around such topical themes as globalization and supply chain management. But current topics come and go; moreover, they tend to be narrow. Reform of management education needs to go deeper; it has to allow for critical insight into the underlying causes of business issues. The objective world outside must merge with the perceived world inside.

The nature of managerial work — not the functions worked on — should provide the foundation of management education. For starters, everything that effective managers do is sandwiched between reflection and action. In other words, managers work where reflective thinking meets practical action. This interaction is clearly visible on three levels. A first level concerns people and their interpersonal relationships, where the orientation often has to be collaborative. A second is that of the organization, where we find the greatest attention to analysis. The third is context, encompassing the world around the organization. Although managers may need to understand global issues, they themselves need to become more worldly.

In designing the IMPM to reflect these ideas, we created five two-week modules, each focusing on one of the five mind-sets — not exclusively, but essentially. Together they address the practice of managing in a holistic way. The program begins in Lancaster with Managing Self, the reflective mind-set, and ends at INSEAD, 16 months later, with Managing Change, the action mind-set. In between are the modules Managing Organizations, the analytic mind-set (in Montréal); Managing Context, the worldly mind-set (in Bangalore); and Managing Relationships, the collaborative mind-set (in Japan).

Learning from Experience
Covering the five different mind-sets is one thing; understanding their essence, and bringing them to life in a classroom, is quite another. In approaching each module, we wanted to bring to life in the classroom the experience of managing change and collaboration, not just talk about it. We created an integrated framework for instruction around these mind-sets so that participants would return to their companies with a deeper understanding of themselves and their work.

• Managing Self is grounded in the belief that some insights and capabilities can come only through self-knowledge. Managers need to step back from daily pressures to focus on themselves and their world — to get a better feel for what it takes (and what it costs them) to be a manager. The classroom for Managing Self starts outdoors, with activities that allow individuals to get to know each other. Discussions may probe many areas — managerial and personal styles, ethics and spirituality, the meaning of work. When different cultures meet in a relaxed, safe atmosphere, the learning can be remarkable.

• Managing Organizations begins with workshops that contrast scientific and artistic approaches to management. Then we consider the functions of marketing, accounting, finance, operations, and information technology. This is as close as the IMPM gets to traditional MBA subject matter. Our concern is for participants to develop a deeper appreciation of management functions. We do this by allowing them to talk to one another in an open forum about anything related to, say, marketing or operations, rather than being taught by a lecturer.

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