Already at the head of their field

My fellow JustMeans blogger, Dane, recently posted about the widely publicized MBA Oath put forth by a handful of Harvard MBAs from the class of 2009.  While “Green” MBAs and ethics classes do appear to be popping up all over, Dane notes that the overall MBA curriculum is still a far cry from the multi-disciplinary approach that could best prepare a manager for the opportunities they’ll face in their career to live up to the Oath's creed.
Such contention with MBA curriculums was echoed in a recent write-up on management guru Sumantra Ghoshal in the Economist.   The article cites Ghoshal’s belief that this decade’s struggle with corporate corruption stems from the short-sighted and purely scientific approach business schools take in teaching management (imagine Ghoshal passed away in 2004 – think how much corporate debauchery had yet to come when he made that claim!).  By limiting the field in such a way, schools fail to allow any room for morality, let alone to encourage it.  Canadian academic Henry Mintzberg recently called Harvard out on this directly (JustMeans member Chris Jarvis blogged about this here), citing an over-dependence on case studies and an exceedingly analytical approach to a profession that is highly dynamic and constantly changing.  Mintzberg suggests that once MBAs enter the career field they'll face a host of issues that no case study could adequately prepare them for, and many will have potentially traded common sense and solid problem solving for the management rhetoric they were fed in grad school.

In light of such debate, one thing I’m sure of is that the MBA students behind the MBA Oath represent the best of academia and the corporate sector – and it’s not because they’ll soon have glittering gold MBAs from Harvard and a handful of other top schools.  It’s because they recognized an element of their education that was lacking, an element in their field as a whole that is lacking, and took steps to establish a new path and model for future students and leaders.  The tenants of the MBA Oath attempt to holistically and responsibly address both the challenges and opportunities a manager will face in their attempt to be the best leader they can be.  Let’s hope MBA programs and the corporate structure as a whole take heed and begin to do the same.