Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Management gurus and b-schools

I have been extremely preoccupied in recent weeks, hence this long lay off from my blog. I hope to be more regular starting next week.

What exactly is the link between b-schools and good management? Can good management be taught the way it is done at b-schools? These are questions that have vexed people for long and we don't have good answers. Of course, many successful managers have come out to b-schools but that's because b-schools simply get the brightest. And we have lots of successful entrepreneurs and managers who never touched a book on management.

Incidentally, Ravi Matthai, the first full-time director of IIMA, had no academic background in management. He was a BA (Hons) from Oxford and had been a chief executive at a firm in Calcutta before he moved into academics. He went on to become a pioneer in management education.

To return to my questions, law journals contribute to lawyers' effective practice. Doctors benefit by reading medical journals. Scholarly management journals are read only by academics so that they can produce more papers that other academics can read. HBR is, perhaps, the one management journal that executives read- and it would not help an academic make tenure in most places.

I had a chance to read Michael Stewart's The Management Myth and write an op-ed piece based on it, Begone, management gurus! Stewart skewers the OB and strategy stuff but there is more to management than that- finance and the quantitative sciences have applicable stuff that is based on sound theory. But I would go along with Stewart's proposal for a remake of the MBA programme by including a heavy dose of the classical liberal arts education.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Trends in consulting

With big cuts in government spending, consulting firms face the heat all over the world. Talk of merger between two leading firms, A T Kearney and Booz and Co, underlines the need for consolidation in the industry.

But the shake-out won't disturb the dominance of the top three, McKinsey, BCG and Bain, argues Stefan Stern in the FT. Much of consulting firm, he points out, focuses not on glamorous things like strategy but on more mundane things such as efficiency and cost reduction.

Still, with some many MBAs out there in industry, it's a bit of surprise that there is still so much need for consulting firms. One reason is that the top firms do invest in knowledge and they have sought to broaden their services by hiring doctorates, lawyers, even musicians. Another is that in the corporate world, people lack time to sit down and think, to collect and analyse data. Consultants serve as auxiliary staff- no need for a full-time strategy or planning department, just call in the consultant when required.