Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comments about Myth of Management

What every junior high student learns at some point: If you can't bedazzle them with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit!
#2  7:51 AM, Apr 14  Reply
I did a CMS, DMS and finally an MBA back in 1995. I've seen two types of people come out of these courses, the first already had some industrial/manufacturing/commercial experience and used what they learnt to add to their existing skills, they become in my experience very effective managers. The other type has no real working experience, only uni, or other higher Ed. These types can talk well, and be very persuasive, but I've seen them wreck and close companies on more than one occasion. One came into a company I worked for and brown nosed into a very senior position, he then basically fired/made redundant anybody over 40 or not directly involved in the manufacturing process. At first it all looked good on paper, profits where up, but only because overheads where down. Then the problems started, and they had no one left who knew the product, or the process, they'd binned them all! wiped out the company's knowledge base. It then ended up in a death spiral, of lower productivity and constant cuts. It closed within 18 months of the MBA "golden balls" getting promoted. I jumped ship and started my own business. Don't think I could have done it without my CMS, DMS and MBA.
#3  7:55 AM, Apr 14  Reply
The problem I have with this entire article is that the author, by his own admission, has never been to business school. He was a management consulting guy for a number of years and by his admission worked on large number of bullshit projects. And based on the enormous amount of BS he gets from what we can assume are his Ivy League MBAs, he points the finger at business school.
I will graduate business school in May with a degree in nonprofit management & spend plenty of time with "normal" MBAs. It is borderline absurd to claim that you don't learn anything in business school. I was a philosophy undergrad, and we never covered finance, accounting or marketing!
As he mentions, a biz school is a lot about skill building. The majority of the people I go to school with want to advance their careers, and be able to lead a team. They teach you how to do this through practice, review and case studies. Good luck getting honest feedback in the real world.
And, we don't read bullshit airport newsstand business books in class. We read a lot of case studies that force us to discuss as a class our opinions and solutions. Lots of times people are wrong and we talk about that. We don't read "10 Tips to Be a Great Manager"
Finally, I don't want to sound like a support everything about business school, there are plenty of insufferable assholes. But if you follow the classes and do your homework, you emerge understanding much more about yourself and how to be a good manager. Are you going to apply it? That's up to you!
In conclusion: boo hoo, I am sorry this guy chased the easy money, sold out, made bank and now has to throw someone under the bus to feel better about himself.
#4  8:15 AM, Apr 14  Reply
In the process of earning my degree in Business I noted that many texts repeatedly stressed that morale is a major ingredient in a businesses success; I have come to realize through multiple experiences that morale is not even considered by many employers. "If you don't like it here you can quit" is the cry of management in places such as Qwest, US Bank and local utilities. Not just in these tough economic times but even before management prefers to rule with a scowl as opposed to a smile; this then reflects upon the treatment of the customer or public.
#5  8:16 AM, Apr 14  Reply
"As students of philosophy know, Descartes dismantled the edifice of medieval thought by writing clearly and showing that knowledge, by its nature, is intelligible, not obscure."
If only there where not a growing group of people that live by being as obscure as possible...
#6  8:19 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Cory, this is a really old and bad article, making obvious points about bad business education and management practice, kicking down open doors.
For your information, I don't even allow my students to use the term "core competencies" in class...
#7  8:20 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Nollind Whachell
It's important to note the differences between a leader and a manager and how are each needed in varying times. It's somewhat similar to specialists and generalists and how are each needed at varying times as well. Right now, it seems like we're beginning a transitional period where we need more leaders and generalists (risk takers that can adapt to changing times quickly), rather than managers and specialists (efficiency experts that optimize during stable times).
Books that cover these differences are "Finding Our Way" by Margaret J. Wheatley and "Paradigms" by Joel Arther Barker.
#8  8:29 AM, Apr 14  Reply
I'm with Meerkat. The notion that one's MBA (or any degree or any life experience) is all that defines someone is shortsighted. Surely Dr. Stewart knows the power of rhetoric in any discipline, and surely he understands that one can use their communicative powers for good or for evil. But that's not what this is about. Business is about profiting for the good of its stakeholders - however they are defined - within the context of its values. Just as different people have different values, so do different businesses.
My undergrad degree is in communication studies, but it's not the reason for my extensive volunteer efforts, my love of humanity and my concern for the greater good. I certainly didn't go to college to learn how to be a compassionate human being (although in retrospect, it helped). But I'd like to think my MBA has helped translate these qualities into leadership roles that impact others in good and powerful ways. It does matter how we reach the bottom line, but no degree from any university in any discipline is responsible for that one.
#9  8:35 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to meerkat
Sounds like he touched a nerve, to me.
#10  8:39 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Boba Fett Diop
"Here are the Six Sigmas: Teamwork, Insight, Brutality, Male Enhancement, Handshakefulness, and Play Hard."
#11  8:49 AM, Apr 14  Reply
A pointless exercise!? Our last President had an MBA!
(Oh, right...)
#12  8:57 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Confession: I've spent most of my career in ecommerce management, which I would consider taking all the woo-speak of management and slathering on a completely new layer of technobabble meringue. People have asked me if I had my Master's degree, to which I responded "yes". Nevermind it wasn't an MBA (mine was Intl Politics).
The article resonates with me very much-- I can usualyl spot the MBA graduates in a meeting within the first 5 minutes by the level of colloquialisms and bland profit-seeking chakras that spill from their mouths. I've often tried to introduce statistical science or regression analysis to a problem, but those "solutions" often get rejected pretty quickly when they show ambiguous results or no clear answer. Managers are more than happy to "knuckle down" or "cowboy up" or "lead from the front" and "soldier on" to find some profits somewhere. There is very little science in management. From what I've seen, it's mostly about personality grooming.
#13  8:59 AM, Apr 14  Reply
millie fink
I disagree about heuristics--I think they CAN make you think.
#14  9:00 AM, Apr 14  Reply
I saw a lot of similarity between both the business classes I took and the philosophy classes I took. Both wanted me to regurgitate what was covered in class, and would dock me for evaluating the usefulness of applying the idea to whatever was being discussed.
I found the Operations Research was by far the most scientific approach to solving management problems that I've ever seen, and somehow, it was only taught for people in computer majors.
#15  9:27 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to jdollak
sry bout your bad philosophy profs.
I'm struck by the naivety of stating that ethics and morality is a part of business: it's a part of business, because workers and consumers have forced the owners/management to not treat them quite so badly. A corporation has only one goal: profit. Ethics and morality are only a means to achieve that. Similarly, it's amusing to me that the writer brings up Kantian ethics, considering the treatment of workers is completely unethical in Kant's view. A person is an end in itself, for Kant. To treat them as a cog in the machine is to treat them as a means to profit, a profoundly unethical act. Not to mention all of the actions of the financial sector that most definitely do not follow the categorical imperative.
#16  9:41 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Keith in reply to Legion971
I jumped ship and started my own business. Don't think I could have done it without my CMS, DMS and MBA.
Sure you could have. The learning curve would have been a bit steeper but it would still be possible. A good friend of mine opened her own business--she has a bachelors degree in sports medicine and a masters in photography.
#17  10:08 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Nadreck in reply to meerkat
So basically you're making an "Emperor's New Clothes" sort of argument: begging the question by assuming that X has value and then using that assumption as the basis for your argument that criticisms of X are therefore invalid. You yourself admit that you haven't had a chance to try and apply this stuff in the real world, as opposed to the author who has seen people try and continuously fail, but assume that it can be done: boy, have you got a surprise waiting for you! It's this complete disrespect for operational experience that's at the core of the problems with the modern MBA. There are several local firms that have a policy of not hiring fresh MBAs because they'd rather other people taught them the basics of manners.
You say "Good luck getting honest feedback in the real world." If you can't get that, both from above and below, then you're doomed from the start. If there was just one thing taught in management schools it should be getting that feedback.
As it is there's a grotesque over-emphasis on accounting and finance: narrow technical skills which are the least important part of any manager's toolkit. If you need them at all, take a couple of night school courses and you're done. As it is the curriculum imbues a fetish for bad hard numbers over good soft numbers and judgement: which is the second biggest problem with MBA courses.
As an example, in project management you'll have to develop a project schedule based on asking specialists on how long it will take them to do something. They'll tell you something like "two days, maybe a little shorter if we're lucky or three days if we're not". The MBA throws away 90% of that information to dump "2 days" into his MicroSoft Project malware and that becomes a sacred promise to upper management. The only thing that you know for sure about "two days" is that it's a lie. The odds against it being finished in exactly two days is astronomical.
A real manager knows that he's just been given an extremely valuable probability distribution. A little bit of script-fu and you can merge the distributions for each sub-task into a project-wide distributions and track against that. However, that deals in ambiguity but, asdavejenk1ns points out, most MBA graduates deny the existence of ambiguity. This is how we get things like the abomination of the cubicle. You can write the cubicles off as "office furniture" faster than real walls so you get a "hard" benefit from them. The 20 to 30 percent drop in productivity due to using them is a "soft" number so it doesn't exist in the MBA's mind - only in reality.
#18  10:17 AM, Apr 14  Reply
MBA and neo-classical economics both appear to be more religion then science, as both discard any observations that do not fit the established doctrine.
#19  10:39 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Mark Crummett
Current events seems to indicate that many business people have their morality and ethics surgically removed as they get promoted.
#20  10:49 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Funny comments from the MBAs! Somehow, the nonsense here is ridiculously obvious only to everyone else - it's only MBAs who believe in the kind of stuff MBAs do. How did we let ourselves get into this situation, where clueless MBAs run things?
I have no problem admitting that many of the details of the "business side" of a business baffle me. To me, a business should be about its end products, not the business itself, which is how MBAs seem to treat things. But then I guess I am a bit of a socialist, and I don't believe in profits being above all things!
Businessmen in my eyes are like the bad side of Wall Street - leeching middlemen who don't produce anything.
#21  10:52 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to Nadreck
Nadreck, I take it that you don't have an MBA either?
As a reluctant MBA student (I'd rather be doing an MFA in sculpture or perhaps a MSc in statistics but personal and career circumstances require otherwise) I can say that the explicit aim of the program I am in is to teach people how to build and work in teams. The 'grotesque over-emphasis on accounting and finance' you speak of does not exist - the technical bits are by far the most difficult for some and by their nature are ripe for comparison against other disciplines' 'weeder' subjects.
As someone who spent the past ten years swearing that I'd never be 'like that' & get an MBA, I'm very pleasantly surprised at the way my program addresses social responsibility & innovation, and I'm genuinely impressed with the character of most of my classmates & teammates.
Also; "most MBA graduates deny the existence of ambiguity"? That's just ridiculous. It's one thing to call out ambiguous findings as useless; entirely another to "deny the existence of ambiguity", whatever that's supposed to mean.
#22  10:53 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to Mark Crummett
Or is it just that the people whose senses or morality and ethics are intact don't care to get into management?
#23  11:17 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to Keith
"sure you could have"
Psh. Yeah. Having an MBA was a detriment. It's not like *that* many new businesses fail..
#24  11:28 AM, Apr 14  Reply
People are given them for a reason. Usually enough people in a particular group exhibit a similar trait, usually one that is not look favorably upon.
If you are not familiar with the concept, you can always start at the bottom of the barrel - 4chan.
#25  11:30 AM, Apr 14  Reply
meerkat in reply to Nadreck
Ha, I am actually getting my MBA through evening classes so I am certainly experiencing how classroom learning fits into the work environment. The average age of my cohort was about 28 - that is at least 6 years of work experience - so I think your local businesses would be just fine.
It is pretty silly to demonize MBAs in general - there are about 250k enrolled every year. You really think all 250k are going to turn into little Portarian quipping drones, spreading 5 Forces and 6 Sigma into everyone's spreadsheets?
Or maybe there are plenty of people that are interested in learning how to do their jobs better, get MBAs and become better managers? Before you start sharpening your pitchforks, you should educate yourself on what coursework this degree actually entails. The "grotesque" overemphasis on finance and accounting = one required class of each, OH NOES!
And then there are a bunch of unethical crooks and idiots that we can read about in the WSJ that ruin business, governments, etc. Would they still be crooks and idiots without MBAs? Yes. 
#26  11:45 AM, Apr 14  Reply
Gawain Lavers
As students of philosophy know, Descartes dismantled the edifice of medieval thought by writing clearly and showing that knowledge, by its nature, is intelligible, not obscure.
Um, like Heidegger?
#27  12:17 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Jeffrey McGrew in reply to Anonymous
It's a common refrain that 'the only goal of a corporation is profit'.
While that is certainly true of many corporations, it's actually not always the driving force behind all corporations, and I feel that it's a gross oversimplification.
For example, I run a small design-build firm with my wife. We make awesome interiors. We're a corporation, but we're only that because we have to be due to legal reasons for my Architect's licence and the services we offer. Otherwise we'd be an LLC, like we were before I got my licence.
Our main goal is pretty much to build a company that gives us the lives we want. 'Profit' in this context also includes things like personal freedom and being able to choose what we do with our lives. Which, as I get older, and see friends getting progressively more bitter about their day jobs, seems like a pretty good goal.
We certainly focus on profits, sure, we have to. But our passon that drives us to do what we do isn't solely based upon that. If we just wanted to maximize profit, I'd be better off dropping architecture, closing up our business, learning javascript, and getting some programming job instead.
You might think it's just because we're small. But even many really large corporations have a primary focus on being awesome at something, so that they can make profit. Not the other way around.
I read this book, and as a small business owner it was fantastic. It totally changed the way I approach other business books (for the better) and really made me think a lot.
Business is an art and a science, and frankly I think a lot of what's out there for business totally forgets the science part, or worse, uses it poorly to back an agenda that is based more upon worldview of the author than upon any sort of actual logical conclusions...
#28  12:43 PM, Apr 14  Reply
EH in reply to Jeffrey McGrew
Nice try. "Physician, heal thyself."
#29  1:18 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to EH
"Nice try. "Physician, heal thyself.""
I can tell you're trying to be snarky, but I honestly don't get what you're implying.
I guess your comment would apply quite nicely to someone running a consulting business, as in consultant::business as doctor::patient, but that's not the case here. In this case, you may as well be saying "patient, heal thyself.."
Or am I not getting some random meme?
#30  1:29 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Interesting topic. I am disturbed by the idea posited above that business exists solely for profit. At one point in history, I believe there was a strong imperative that corporations were allowed to exist for the primary purpose of creating a social benefit.
In general, the mythology surrounding notions of business and commerce is fascinating. Upper management and PR departments seem hell bent on spinning positive messages about their specific businesses, and there seems to be a lot of positive messaging about business in general. But the reality is that companies rise and fall all the time, they have life cycles and life spans. I am sometimes disgusted with my own company's consistent aggressiveness when it comes to goal setting. When the whole economy is in the shit can (which, combined with several other factors, hit my industry particularly hard), why do we keep setting ridiculous revenue goals?
I read a quote by I believe the creator (?) of Barbie. She said that any old idiot can manage a company when it's on its way up, but it takes real talent to manage a company that is on its way down. But how often do we hear about a company on its way down? No company will ever admit to be shrinking, they'd much rather start in with the spin. And then there a few whispers about bankruptcy, and then a month later they are filing. They should have known years in advance that they were heading for bankruptcy. With all these highly educated MBAs running things, shouldn't most companies know they are heading for bankruptcy well in advance? Yes there are accidents and unforeseen circumstances, but often times the technological/cultural changes that affect companies to the point of bankruptcy are like freakin' giant, slow, inevitable icebergs that should be acknowledged and dealt with rather than freakin' spun around.
#31  1:42 PM, Apr 14  Reply
My experience with MBA's parallels my experience working with engineers (civil, mechanical, agricultural, electrical, etc). The best ones spent time "in the trenches" either during the summer break or before starting college. Gave them a better appreciation of what work was really like, gave them credit with the others, and let them get a taste to decide if this was what they REALLY wanted to do and study. Many found out they didn't like it and avoided spending 4+ years on the wrong track
#32  2:39 PM, Apr 14  Reply
"M.B.A.s have taken obfuscatory jargon--otherwise known as bullshit--to a level that would have made even the Scholastics blanch. As students of philosophy know, Descartes dismantled the edifice of medieval thought by writing clearly and showing that knowledge, by its nature, is intelligible, not obscure."

Well, philosophy isn't really innocent of that. In fact, I'd say it's just as full of meaningless terms and self-reference as the worst corporate doublespeak. Especially nowadays when everyone and their mom is into postmodernism.
Zizek, Foucault, Derrida, Baudrillard, Debord all use an embarrassingly huge amount of meaningless vocabulary and philosophical jargon that obscures and broadens their message. Many academics love that stuff because, like any other group-slang, it makes them feel superior and/or different and/or separate from mainstream society.
David Foster Wallace is the only recent author whose philosophy writing is truly free of bullshit.
#33  2:55 PM, Apr 14  Reply
I've read this before. I'm an MBA graduate but I did it more to understand the globalisation enemy than anything else... I did a further semester of journalism and media studies as a specialisation and i had previously completed a Bachelor of Computing... both degrees I earned an average mark of just on 80% across everything.
First, to qualify into the MBA program that I entered at the University of Tasmania I needed to prove 7 years business experience if you didn't already have a business degree. But also, the curriculum isn't just management subjects - only about 1/3 are management and the rest are statistics, law, economics and a few finance units plus electives. Which makes me realise how little this author understood the MBA. It's like me saying I'm an engineer and know all about engineering from reading the text books (or computing for that matter). All formal educations are simply about creating a standardised product - doctor, psychologist, whatever - with their own industry jargon and culture.
The good PhD in Philosophy, a branch of academia with waffle coming out it's backside (I might add), has pushed what we called in the old days 'corporate speak' into the MBA graduate's repertoire of skills. No, don't forget that's a facet of all large (particularly public) organisations and not just the MBAs. Also, there are people who do the MBA and just pass and there are those who get it.
Here's a question... as a standardised product to train middle managers in a globalised world the good PhD doesn't think they need ethics training, mocking the 'categorical imperative'? Now that is a scary thing. Unfortunately ethics training is proven to have an impact regardless of which organisation this guy worked in.
And that's the crux. It's really an exit rant from a PhD who thought he was beyond the position that he left to return to the PhD... because a man only needs to understand and read the classics of literature to run globalised companies. I'm calling bullshit on that one.
Porters 5 Forces may be lame but if you aren't forcing yourself to look laterally when you are steering a multi-billion dollar company's entry into a foreign market then WTF? He doesn't believe in strategic management? Phone Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, or whatever and ask them what they think of that one? Because what the doctor proposes 'on top of a small seed of populist driven truth' is that strategy isn't important. He would run businesses like a household, on a wing and a prayer.
The article itself showed this guy went to meetings where he intentionally and proudly undermined other business consultants when they showed their ideas to the client, siding in a mocking position with the client. Does that give anyone a signal? Now why isn't he a management consultant anymore?
Sorry, but this article has had a little too much traction not to have a close pick at the weak points. Apologies for the lack of waffle that you were obviously expecting from an MBA graduate with a Bachelor of Computing and a bunch of industry IT certification in web technologies.
Steven Clark
#34  2:59 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Financial Times had an article this week about how people are willing to travel thousands of miles one weekend a month for executive MBA programs and pay ungodly tuition fees for the privilege.
The take-home lesson for me was that the primary goal of enrolling in EMBA programs is to meet and make business contacts other people with enough money to blow on an otherwise pointless exercise. The 2nd order point of EMBA is to get the name of a fancy school on your CV.
#35  3:09 PM, Apr 14  Reply
I should also add that business jargon is an essential part of being a business professional... imagine if some doctor couldn't talk to doctors in the 'proper words'. There is patient talk and doctor talk (jargon). It sounds like from day one the PhD in philosophy went from being 'know it all in his field' to playing catchup with old management text books to understand the jargon. That would have been a big ego hit at the time and probably the fuel behind much of his article.
It's not the MBA program that you should be concerned about but what 'some people' do with it.
#36  3:13 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to meatpigeon
I would go further and say that the 'obfuscatory jargon' we're talking about isn't actually that: it may be difficult for an outsider to comprehend, and some of the insiders may be driveling idiots, but the terms themselves genuinely have specific, if contrived, meaning that necessarily exists to describe complex scenarios (which may or may not be legitimate representations of reality).
I say if you want to find obfuscation, look at anyone in marketing or advertising. As someone with a B.Comm, I'm ashamed that they lump marketing in with us.
There's nothing wrong with the skills associated with marketing, but it's quite clear to me that ethics has no place in the advertising world. I find it surprising that people have such disdain for subjects that are, in effect, auditable (finance & accounting) while they let the 'soft' subjects walk right in and take a dump on their rug.
#37  3:14 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to MattB
By extension, then, what does that make those of us taking regular MBA programs at cheap schools? I'm curious as to your opinion, honestly.
#38  3:41 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Anon in reply to jdollak
Operations Research is also taught to Industrial Engineers as well.. And I do agree that Operations Research is a scientific way to solving problems..
#39  6:26 PM, Apr 14  Reply
Here's my anecdote: I recently started a little side business so that I would have a slush-fund with which to buy tools and stuff. My educational background consists of an aborted English degree and a BS in Interior Architecture. When my little side business flukishly turned a profit and started to grow, I didn't know anything about accounting methods, planning for taxes, insurance, inventory management, etc. Enter my wife, whose educational background consists of a Bachelor's in Sociology and an MBA. She quickly and effortlessly sorted my small operation. She did this using the nuts and bolts of her MBA.
Ethics and management case studies are not the entirety of that degree. There's a good deal of valuable technical knowledge that also comes with it.
This article and a lot of the comments here are focused on a caricature of business, capitalism, and management training.
#40  8:03 PM, Apr 14  Reply
half a dozen jobs across the range of work environments and a plethora of manager types, and MBA has become pretty damn interchangeable with "clueless profit driven boob"
The only one I met that was competent and gave a rat's arse about the employees had 15yrs experience at the bottom, and only got her MBA after getting into a managerial position.
#41  8:08 PM, Apr 14  Reply
A lot of wounded egos in the comments above, I see.
It is worth reading the whole article (carefully, and maybe less self-defensively). The paragraph right after the excerpt answers many of the complaints above:
"The recognition that management theory is a sadly neglected subdiscipline of philosophy began with an experience of déjà vu. As I plowed through my shelfload of bad management books, I beheld a discipline that consists mainly of unverifiable propositions and cryptic anecdotes, is rarely if ever held accountable, and produces an inordinate number of catastrophically bad writers. It was all too familiar. There are, however, at least two crucial differences between philosophers and their wayward cousins. The first and most important is that philosophers are much better at knowing what they don’t know. The second is money. In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much."
#42  11:27 PM, Apr 14  Reply
To the previous anon... from the article quoted by you... "The first and most important is that philosophers are much better at knowing what they don’t know."
Mmm & yet in one gallant swoop he isn't aware what he doesn't know about the MBA program or a whole bunch of stuff. Let's just face it, the guy wrote a bit of a rant about management when it didn't work out for him and he went back to being an academic. There really isn't much more of a story than that.
I'd like to know the backstory on where this occurred (so he's only able to talk about 1 company not every company in the world - again knowing that he doesn't know stuff, right?) and that he had a specific set of circumstances that led to his leaving the job and returning to academia? Did his relationship break down? Was there conflict with another team member? Had he found it hard not to criticise other managers in client meetings? How were his performance reviews? Maybe he was about to be fired anyway, we just don't know. Somehow this guy because he has a phd in something is given the credibility of Moses - it's all just one spin from his perspective. So I'm just curious. Because nothing in there attests that this guy was ever the best manager in town, beyond his own arrogant blather. And to be honest I was surprised he picked up on crap from a Management 101 text for 1st year undergrads about Taylor's theories. Seriously?
So my theory is this guy has some sort of chip on his shoulder & this is his vent to the world so he can sleep at night. Great, I've read psychology books and I think the same about psychologists and therapists and I even hypothesise all they do at university is read the same cheap psychology books I trolled up 20 years ago. But that just makes me ignorant about psychology as a profession... because I actually do know what I don't know (to some extent). Unlike the PhD author who believes like many PhDs who bluff the world that they know about everything about everything.
Here's what a PhD is... you draw a circle, that's everything about a very specific subject... a question. Then draw a tiny bubble on the outside. That's their contribution to new knowledge 'about that question'. End of story. More people draw new little bubbles & so on over and over until their thesis just becomes reference material for new faces to step into PhD hats. A PhD in philosophy does not the omnipotent being bestow all wisdom. Please, keep this guy in context.
#43  11:44 PM, Apr 14  Reply
C'mon we all know a doctor who doesn't know his bum from his elbow or an IT graduate who couldn't program a VCR. Generalising about MBA graduates from all over the world in all types of business from all types of social positions is almost pointless. At best this is a heresay piece that many people buy into because it suits a pre-conceived notion of what they want to believe an MBA to be (or mean).
The buddha said 'All criticism is based on ignorance'.
#44  3:15 AM, Apr 15  Reply
A bit surprised at the number of negative comments. For a more sustained and thorough debunking of the tools taught in an MBA, via philosohy, see the black swan by Nassim Taleb. The book concentrates mainly on modelling risk but shows how the treatment of the various MBA tools as scientific and true denies the reality that the methods are consistently shown to be wrong. The biggest failure, for Taleb, is the ignoring of outliers, hence they never see the big crash coming.
I think there is a lot of common sense taught in an MBA but in certain aspects there is a little too much faith rather than critical thinking. Matthew Stewerts piece is interesting as it shows right from the birth of the discipline it made a grasp for authority, that continues to this day, when it adopted scientific language or mathematical models for attempts at, basically, fortune telling.
#45  6:55 AM, Apr 15  Reply
The science of business? Isn't there a sub-discipline of economics for that? 
#46  8:10 AM, Apr 15  Reply
I get the impression that MBA is one part accounting, one part arm chair philosophy.
#47  8:23 AM, Apr 15  Reply
Let’s get my ‘pedigree’ out of the way before I comment, just so you know I have at least some credibility on this topic. Undergrad was a double major in Computer Science and Business Management then 10 years working as a programmer during which I did a Masters in Computer Information Systems. Note that my masters program was basically an MBA with a focus on the IT industry.
I will say this for my various stages/levels of higher education. My undergrad was mostly a waste of time. All of the semesters of programming courses could have been boiled down into a single semester of key programming principles. Which would still have left me equally as unprepared for the actual business world as I was. I didn’t even know enough to be dangerous. What I learned in my first job were these two things. I didn’t know jack-squat and I was about as important to my company as the post-it notes in the supply closet. The only thing my undergrad did was get me a pass into an entry-level job (which I’m not actually complaining about), but that’s the reality. Now, my masters was more of an exercise in critical thinking than anything else. Sure, we learned management theory, had discussions about case studies, and practiced project management. However, the actual value was then being able to recognize the jargon and BS in meetings, picking up on little moves the company made and being able to see what’s coming before it happened. And like my undergrad, it gave me a pass to enter into a different level of employment with more responsibility, pay, and risk. I boil higher education down to developing critical thinking skills and opening doors that would otherwise stay shut.
Managers are either great, good, or god-awful regardless of their level and/or type of education. It’s been my experience that great managers are born that way. They know how to take raw data and blend it with soft skills (a.k.a. being able to successfully interact with other humans) to create a realistic and logical road map for their team to follow. They know that changing their mind is not a bad thing if it makes sense and are open to suggestions from their team. The ability to collect raw data and successfully interact with humans has nothing to do with 6 Sigma, Steven Covey, Microsoft certifications, or any other BS program designed to steal your money and waste your time.
#48  2:31 PM, Apr 15  Reply
Anon in reply to Anonymous
You do realise all that paragraph really says is 'my school (philosophy) is better than their school (business)' and that 'my school knows what it doesn't know (which is blather)'. A very common academic stance on any university campus.
I am not sure but wasn't this three year gig his only job outside academia? And as a management consultant not a project manager, financial manager, human resource management manager, board member, CEO, resource manager, etc? So I guess he was a mere management consultant at one firm of one size in one place. Which is like saying all engineers are crap because some buildings fell over in Christchurch on a fault line one day.
I am also not completely sure that I understand the quality of a schoolyard taunt about bruised egos (above). Is that a technique to invalidate the case for anybody who disagrees? Bruised ego? I am left wondering whether a recent article was correct where they were discussing the university bubble - ploughing out degrees that are overvalued in ALL fields to far too many people to turn profits for the universities and faculties to grow. Because an odd relationship exists between faculties of philosophy and their economic success... look at any university and you can assess their academic cred via the number of philosophy PhDs on their staff. Go have a look, it's interesting. Start with Oxford, Harvard etc and move down to the less prestigious.
The PhD, after all, is no different a maligned mass produced product than the business graduate.


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