Improving Management Education

Emiliani, M.L. (2006). Improving management education. Quality Assurance in Education, (14)4, 363-

Improving management education by Emiliani (2006) examines MBA business education from the perspective of current deficiencies within the model with suggested solutions to improve upon those deficiencies.  The goal of the article is to present an outsiders view of management education in the hopes that this outsiders view may offer up more relevant and unbiased opinions. Emiliani (2006) has a background in engineering, supply chain management and manufacturing while also being a professor of lean management. Through his experience, he proposes improvements that not only remove waste from the processes but creates a more reflective, problem-based experience model in which students are better exposed to business challenges.

Emiliani (2006) used an analysis of faculty and student experiences from MBA-level programs within his institution. Further, he matched this with data collected from a series of wall street journal reports about management behavior and deficiencies that managers lack in their leadership (p. 373). Through this analysis, he proposes 11 improvements that could be added to courses or degree programs with the goal of adding value to the experience (p. 373). Part of his analysis was the use of the Caux Round Table principles, which is a system that looks at business from a Human-Economic approach (p. 366).  The Caux Round Table approach is relevant in that it does not just look at systems from a business perspectives or the company perspective but takes into consideration all the stakeholders with a humanizing view.

Some of the 11 improvements addressed include creating a more focused but simplified curriculum, more top of mind education, more engaging and interesting content, more utility as well as life time relevance (p. 377-378).  Of most importance here would be the life time relevance of the lessons which builds a tool kit that the leader can refer back to throughout their career.

The approach to this article is done successfully through the analysis of professor and student experience while also utilizing business design principles tested in industry that show relevance to creating top of mind business education. Emiliani offers up a well-structured, deeply analytical and well-researched article that provides interesting, and relevant, insights into what can help improve an MBA program. What is interesting as well is that he does not necessarily offer up a complete argument for what an MBA program should do to improve but gives good foundations for what should be considered. He further poses that the biggest challenge will be whether the Deans of these schools will shift the programs in the way required to create this relevance or stick within the current paradigms (p. 379). If leadership is not supportive of the change or willing to recognize that change is needed, the models he presents will have no effect.

The impact on business education, in particular an MBA program, is significant. Business is always tasked with staying ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and success.  Business programs need to follow suit and demonstrate graduates who can add that innovation and success to the companies they will join. Business often recruits directly from programs that produce graduates with the most relevant and useful skills that match their organizational strategies and goals. Programs must consider this in the design and continuous improvement of their curriculum. Emiliani proposes an argument that is absolutely imperative to business school success.

What stands out the most here is not only the connection to industry but also the Caux Roundtable and the focus on including all stakeholders. Having worked for various educational institutions and through my role in corporate education, I have seen companies with processes or strategies that forget to take into consideration all the stakeholders. Within the Caux Roundtable, internal stakeholders (staff, leadership) and external stakeholders (customers, suppliers, and competitors) are considered in a way that adds a more holistic view of the opportunity or challenge. What becomes significant here is that the proposed change would produce graduates who can look laterally across those opportunities and challenges to solve problems in a far more dynamic way.

One piece that stuck out most here, and connects through to my area of study around the application of value chain principles to graduate business education, is the analytical frameworks that think of this improvement model similarly to a business model. Graduate business education is essentially a pre-cursor to working in industry and should think of itself much like a business. If you are producing graduates that are going to take on the business challenges of tomorrow, much of how the faculty, the curriculum and even the student support processes approach educating these individuals is developed and structured must consider this business perspective.  Taking on graduate business education from this approach has the opportunity to add value into the student experience while creating more efficient and effective processes.

At the same time, we need to consider the fact that this is not just a business process standing operating in a vacuum but a process that relies heavily on the acceptance and success of the student experiencing it. Like Emiliani (2006) presents, it is significant to think of the humanizing aspect within the process and not to forget that someone will be experiencing this. When I think of implementing a process, I try to think of the experience I would like to have and then try to match that experience to what the systems and structures of the institution can support, not just a process that makes sense for the institution. By coming at the process from the student, or customer, perspective, there is more opportunity to add value back into the process and match it to the efficiencies that you are aiming to create.

Overall, I can see the applicability of this article and can see where much of this will be relevant within my area of inquiry. By closely examining a graduate business program and looking at the ways that the curriculum and program can more directly tie to industry, the more opportunity there is for producing graduates who fill the needs of industry. In turn, if industry begins to target the graduates for recruitment, this will add value to the experiences that the programs can continue to create.