Book Review - Manager's Not Mbas a Hard Look at the Sodt Practice of Management by Henry Mintzberg

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Organization Behavior – I
Assignment – Book Review
(Managers not MBAs, A hard look at the soft practice of managing and management development– Henry Mintzberg)

Mayank Sinha
Roll No 88
Section B
PGDM 2009-11

Exposition of a critique

The leitmotif of the book is that the practice of management can only be learned by the action-reflection model. Management is the practice of getting the right things done, individually and collectively, and learning happens not just by doing but by being able to gain conceptual understanding while doing it. Management competence, as a practice rather than a profession, cannot be taught in the abstract, but is best learned in context through a combination of action and reflection. In management, a so called “layperson” with relevant skills and experience can outperform a so called “expert” trained in a sought after MBA program. Mintzberg describes management as a “practice that has to blend a good deal of craft (experience), with a certain amount of art (insight) and some science (analysis)”. However, the majority of MBA programs focus on the scientific approach, which results in what Mintzberg calls the calculating style of management.

Part 1

The first part of the book titled “Not MBAs” is a critique of the way management education is imparted by conventional MBA programs across the world. The current business education paradigm emphasizes learning in the form of decision making by systematic analysis, in the context of business functions. True decision making involves identification of the issue, diagnosing the problem, ascertaining possible solutions and evaluating them to select the best one. Determination of the problem that needs to be solved is a more important requirement of decision making, and it cannot be done through systematic analysis.

It is a given that managers need to have a grasp of business functions. However the knowledge of business functions is not equivalent to management. Everything taught in a conventional B-school is in terms of specialized functions and no courses exist on the integration of these functions into a more holistic and intellectual understanding of business in general and management in particular. Even if such knowledge is imparted, it is done within the context of particular functions. The curriculum of a typical MBA program remains mostly about specialization in business functions rather than the practice of management.

The pedagogical methods, being constrained to classroom discussion and lacking students with relevant experience have limited effectiveness. Although the professors do their best to bring the “real world” of managing into the classrooms, the real world exists only as a lived experience in the head of the learner. No amount of pedagogical simulation is going to get the real world into the classroom as long as students are not the “right people” (with managerial experience). The case method of teaching involves presenting students with a snapshot of a company facing an issue. However reading a case is not experiencing the actual situation. The importance of case method cannot be ruled out entirely as long as the richness and history of the situation is fully appreciated. However, they can only be recognized as “supplements to experience, not replacements for it”. Cases can be deemed more relevant to the study of law rather than management, as lawyers don’t deal with actual events but accounts of events.

Today the MBA is legitimized and recognized as a degree that produces qualified managers rather than specialists in business functions. These calculating managers then make their way into organizations with the confidence that they have been trained to deal with any problem that comes their way. This kind of bloated self confidence often turns out to be hollow. “CONFIDENCE – COMPETENCE = ARROGANCE”; this applies to the set of people whose confidence exceeds their...
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