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


Reality Programming for MBAs

• Managing Context, which is held in India, does not seek to impose a global perspective, but to have people appreciate their differences. This module is designed on the assumption that being exposed to other people’s worlds brings insight into one’s own world. They spend their two weeks exploring the context of organizations from many perspectives — financial markets, consumer behavior, stakeholder relationships, and networking skills, as well as culture in general and, in particular, in developing countries.

• Managing Relationships explores various dimensions of collaboration: among individuals in teams, among divisions in organizations, and among organizations in alliances. The group considers alternative models of human behavior as well as the role of trust and group cooperation in companies. To get beyond American-style managing (which is often labeled as “global”), the collaborative mind-set module includes discussion about the Japanese style of management.

• Managing Change focuses on four themes: corporate change (more macro, top down), organic change (more micro, bottom up), societal change, and personal change. Again, the program is designed for experiential learning — about organization leadership and personal agendas for change. IMPM participants are given the opportunity to apply what they have learned by visiting and studying companies in the program to observe different change processes and deal with real challenges.

There are three popular pedagogies in management education: lectures and “are there any questions?”; case-study discussions; and action learning (e.g., projects, fieldwork). The first serves only as a beginning. The second certainly brings experience to the classroom, but it’s second-hand experience, not the participants’ experience. The third, action learning, is constructive as long as the action is real and there is reflection commensurate with the action.

We encourage a fourth approach: experienced reflection. The faculty introduces concepts, and the managers bring their experience; learning, and thoughtful reflection, occur where the two meet. The classroom space, which is a collection of round tables, encourages this group reflection. The place of the faculty is to facilitate, not instruct.

We have also experimented successfully with managerial exchanges. One popular IMPM activity pairs participants from different regions and sends each person to his or her partner’s company. It is “not just a visit,” says one participant, “but a mirror that lets you see yourself.” Working in a common classroom of people from around the world is one kind of experience; leaving your banking office in Toronto to enter the high-tech world of Osaka is quite another.

As these new ideas in management education have taken root, they have become a template for others. McGill, one of the IMPM’s founding business schools, is offering a program for the volunteer sector in Canada using a variation of the IMPM model. Current participants include senior managers from organizations such as Amnesty International and the YMCA. A health-care version of the IMPM program, also under development at McGill, will be offered to senior managers across the sector from around the world. A three-and-a-half-day program called Analysis to Action, modeled after the Managing Organizations module, has run through six cycles for the Royal Bank of Canada Financial Group.

The Lancaster University Management School, another IMPM school, has used the five mind-sets to create an MBA program for the high-potential managers of Bass, the leisure and brewing company that owns the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Lancaster has also sponsored a “Strategic Leaders” program customized for the top management of BAE Systems. The success of the managerial exchanges has also prompted the establishment of, which is applying the techniques from the IMPM to both individual exchanges for top managers and post-merger integration of multinational firms.

Building on its original model, the IMPM is embarking on new initiatives; the Advanced Leadership Program (ALP), for example, is for senior management teams, rather than individuals. Teams are asked to bring a key issue with which their company is grappling, which they discuss with four to five teams from other companies. This gives the sponsoring companies the benefit of analysis and advice from external sources and education for their executives at the same time. ALP is divided into three modules that take place over six months in England, India, and Canada.

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