Managers Not MBAs: Debating the Merits of Business Education

author: Ricardo Semler, Semco group
author: Henry Mintzberg, Faculty of Management, McGill University
published: Dec. 9, 2013,   recorded: September 2005,   views: 1817

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Most MBAs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, suggests Henry Mintzberg. “Management is where art and craft and science meet,” and most MBA programs are simply “training in analytical skills for analytical jobs… like investment banking and consulting.” Whatever you do, don’t confuse an MBA with a license to manage. “If people want to be managers, there’s a better route to it: get into an industry, know it, prove yourself, get promoted into a managerial position—and then, go to a program that uses managerial experience explicitly—not other people’s cases, but your own experience.” Ricardo Semler proposes that the jury is still out on whether management constitutes a science, but Mintzberg counters emphatically: “There are no natural surgeons. But there are all kinds of natural managers, people who are hugely successful and never spent a day in management class. It’s not a science or a profession. It’s a practice.” Mintzberg finds appalling the “depreciation of leadership” in the U.S. -- witness FEMA’s debacle during Hurricane Katrina and “the self-serving nature of chief executives these days.” Mintzberg recommends a “natural managerial program,” where “soft skills” and ethical approaches blend imperceptibly with analysis. “The idea you can parachute in and manage anything is absolute nonsense,” Mintzberg concludes.

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