I recently came across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled

"Elon Musk Decries 'M.B.A.-ization of America'

It was written by Patrick Thomas and appeared on December 10, 2020.  Basically the simplified premise of Musk is that there are far too many M.B.A.s running companies who are not as holistic as he thinks they should be.  He feels there are so many that are too involved in financial spreadsheets, board meetings, etc., and not enough 'executives willing to step away from their spreadsheets and get out of the boardroom and onto the factory or business floor.'   Musk goes on to say "there should be more focus on the product or service itself, less time on board meetings, less time on financials."

Not surprisingly, the M.B.A. schools disagree.  In this article the schools say nothing could be further from the truth.  They feel the education they provide does these things.  Robert Siegel, a lecturer in management at Stanford Graduate School of Business believes "he's (Musk opinion) got a strong element of truth of what leaders should be focused on, but he is completely off base talking about M.B.A.'s."  Isn't that a conundrum since a large number of CEO's and Executives  are in fact M.B.A.'s?  

Now to be transparent, I have a Master's in Business from a well regarded regional University.  But having spent the last 40 years in management consulting all over the globe, I have developed some opinions about my education.  

1) My Master's is over 45 years old and in fact I have no doubt there have been many changes to the core                       curriculum of any M.B.A program.

2)  In traveling to over 63 countries around the world and working with CEO's, C-Suite Executives, Senior Managers,  Middle Managers and Supervision, I can clearly say that a large majority of the C-Suite level people I have met do not go out on the factory or facility work area.  Many times they have no clue how the product is made or how the service is administered.  They rely on strategy managers and Operations managers to tell them what is happening.  Here we have a problem because if something is going wrong, most times, these people may shade the truth.  A long time ago, the acronym MBWA was very popular.  MBWA stands for Management By Wandering Around. Maybe this is not the cleverest of expressions but it meant CEO's and C-Suite level people who had a serious grasp of what was happening in the work areas of their companies or organizations.  They would go out and meet the people doing the work and listen to them.  Now of course that is not always possible, but it can and should be done a few times a year at the very least.  

3) New to me is the data revolution compared to when I received my Master's.  But I have developed enough skill and knowledge to understand what the hell is going on.  Many CEO's I have seen ask their assistants to do it for them.  You don't learn by NOT doing.  You must have some basic intuitive knowledge or you will lose.

4)  In my view and compared to my education, I do not think there is enough time spent on ethics, value propositions, cultural aspects of management, creativity, leadership, crisis management, etc.  I cite Boeing's mismanagement of their 737 Max situation and Equifax's massive data breach, only disclosed in 2017.  These are just two, but we all know there are many many more.  And yet there are other companies who ride through some of these same type of hurdles.  


Raj Echambadi, the dean of Northeastern University's D'Amore-McKim School of Business in this article "questioned Mr. Musk's assertion that CEO's shouldn't be attuned to their company profitability, adding that an M.B.A. can give corporate leaders a holistic understanding of business, from the supply chain, operations and manufacturing to marketing, customer service and human resources."   Some of this is true, but give me a break Mr. Musk and Dean Echambadi, a CEO who is not attuned to his or her company's profitability, should not be in that role. It is just one piece in the massive jigsaw puzzle known as management.

In any event, I do not fully support Musk, nor can I support these education leaders.  They both have valid points.  You cannot create an M.B.A. program which covers every foreseeable situation, but you can create executives with more expertise and skill in things other than spreadsheets and board meetings.   

Take a look at the article by Patrick Thomas and develop your own opinion.




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