Archive for MBA

Worth reading: Matthew Stewart on MBA education

On MBA experience

“”the impression I formed of the M.B.A. experience was that it involved taking two years out of your life and going deeply into debt, all for the sake of learning how to keep a straight face while using phrases like “out-of-the-box thinking,” “win-win situation,” and “core competencies.”

On Frederick Winslow Taylor

Taylorism, like much of management theory to come, is at its core a collection of quasi-religious dicta on the virtue of being good at what you do, ensconced in a protective bubble of parables (otherwise known as case studies).

On Managment theory

The world of management theorists remains exempt from accountability.

Between them, Taylor and Mayo carved up the world of management theory. According to my scientific sampling, you can save yourself from reading about 99 percent of all the management literature once you master this dialectic between rationalists and humanists. The Taylorite rationalist says: Be efficient! The Mayo-ist humanist replies: Hey, these are people we’re talking about! And the debate goes on. Ultimately, it’s just another installment in the ongoing saga of reason and passion, of the individual and the group.

In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much.

Philosophers vs MBA

” 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”

Source:  The Management Myth

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IIM Bangalore selection procedure 101

IIM bangalore has released a document that outline how exactly it distill candidates for its two year MBA program.

In case you not intersted to decode this for now you can  read exellent analysis of same here. 

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Big Do’s for the B-school essay

Do’s for the B-school essay

1. Communicate that you’re a proactive, can-do sort of person. Leaders take initiative and aren’t thwarted by roadblocks.

2. Put yourself on ego alert; stress what makes you unique, not what makes you great. You want admissions officers to respect and like you.

3. Position yourself as a stand-out from the crowd; emphasize your distinctiveness.

4. Make sure your leadership qualities really come through. Admissions officers want to hear about skills that enabled you to rally folks around your solution.

5. Communicate specific reasons why you’re a “fit” for a school, (but avoid vague, fluffy statements such as “I am the ideal or perfect candidate for you program.”) Do your research. Relate your specific interests to the school’s academics, specific professors, culture, quality of life, and location. If you use an essay for more than one school, make sure each is tailored to be school-specific.

6. Bring passion to your writing—admissions officers want to know what you’re really excited about.

7. Break out of your perceived mold. Use the essays to challenge any preconceived notions about who you are. Are you a numbers guy or engineer type? Challenge perceptions with unexpected portrayals that say, “There’s more to me than you think.” It could be that you’re passionate about cooking, or that you organize a game of hoops every Saturday.

8. Play up an unorthodox path to b-school. Admissions officers appreciate risk-takers. But be convincing about your ability to handle the program, especially quantitative skills that schools can take for granted in applicants in finance.

9. Use your gender, ethnicity, minority, or foreign background—but only if it has affected your outlook or experiences.

10. Avoid too many sentences that begin with “I.” Use examples and anecdotes instead.11. Be subtle. If you call too much attention to a problem, and becomes a bigger problem.

12. Fill your essays with plenty of real-life examples to support your thesis and bring your story to life.

13. Show a sense of humor or your vulnerability. These qualities make you likeable. They make your stories more personal.

14. Don’t write in a vacuum. Make sure that each of your essays reinforces and builds on the others. Think of each essay as one note in a song.

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MBA guy speeks

The MBA Hitchhiker’s Guide
By Issac M. JohnPublished: March 30, 2006
A 9 Step Survival Kit to those 2 years at a B-School from someone who’s learnt it at SPJIMR
The following article comes with an inherently flawed assumption – that I have received my PGDBM degree (which by the way, is still subjected to the vagaries of nature and the powers at my institute). It is an attempt to demystify some of the myths surrounding MBA education and a guideline to survive a two year journey during which one not only undergoes an emotional turmoil, financial backlash but also a personal renunciation of joys like watching cricket 24/7.

I must confess that one of the most important reasons I wanted to do an MBA was to have the security of a solid six-figure salary in the shortest possible time. I was in Standard VII, when I read an India Today cover story profiling some of India’s hottest professional profiles. All of them were MBA’s from India’s top institutes. I read about this chap called Rajeev Balakrishnan whose salary at the age of 24 read an eye-popping six-figure sum. I was damn impressed by our man’s grey suit and I told myself- “Gotta be like that , Issac, gotta be like that”. I don’t have that magazine issue with me today but yeah the color of the suit was grey. I have a tremendous memory for irrelevant details.

That was in 1995. Today in 2006, I have a black suit and I am going to pen the following words with the limited wisdom of a guy who has had the pleasure and the pain to go through two years of MBA education at one of India’s top institutes. The following 9 points are some of my most treasured gems of learning I have picked up from my experiences of the last two years. They should be applicable to any wannabe MBA or anyone who is still going through the pleasure such an education bestows. Some of them have been acquired through personal application, some through observation and some have been passed on to me by some of my gurus at SPJIMR.

1. Play the game of Last Impression and not First Impression:

In MBA, the rule of first impression being the best impression never applies. Do not ever attempt to make a point at the beginning of a class if there are CP marks. Make your point when the class is slow, drab and fatally boring. This is usually towards the end of the class. People who speak early lose their recall in the eyes of the professor. There will be a time mid-way when every CP desperate guy will attempt to make a point. During these times you should simply watch the fun from the sidelines. Do not attempt to break the clutter for you will be lost and loathed by those desperate around you. Go for your kill only in times of recession.

2. Find the goldmine but don’t dig it yourself:

In times of exams and tests go to the specialist of a subject for advice. Every batch has an Eco, Quant, FM and Operations specialist. If you are the kinds who never bothered to attend classes or thought of Brearley-Myers as the updated version of Duckworth-Lewis go to that expert for that particular subject, spend time in his company. Take tips from him including the syllabus for the test. These guys are better than textbooks. Often they might also tell you the exact question that’s coming for they spend a lot of time in the professor’s cabin.

3. Keep your ego at Absolute Zero:

Feel at ease to be thought of as stupid or crazy. Your batchmate or even your professors are hugely unlikely to be your employer. So if you have a doubt, ask but in private. Never take the liberty to make yourself stupid in front of 50 others. That’s dangerous. Always approach the person one-on-one if you have a doubt and preferably don’t approach a professor. I learnt on an average atleast 60% more from my peers than from my professors. How I arrived at that figure is a mystery- even to me.

4. Keep your options open; all the time:

This I learnt from my stint as a Placement Committee member in Second Year. There is a beauty in not committing to anyone, learn to admire it and exercise it. In terms of electives, minors, careers and dates always keep your options open till as long as you can. I never killed my alternatives even when I was always sure what I was going to do. This is an off-shoot of the best answer in any MBA class. Professor: So should D/E equity ratio be low or high? Dumb Guy 1 : High because blah blah blah.. Dumb Guy 2 : Low because blah blah blah… Smart Guy: It depends Sir..

5. Be Flexible:

In the last two years, I have developed a huge interest in Theater, Movies, Writing and Photography. This is only because I was willing to listen and spend time with experts from my batch in each of these fields with an eagerness of a beaver and the curiosity of a 3 year old. I realized later that whenever I told myself “That’s not for me…” I have lost out on something. Some of the things I learnt from my batchmates range from fields of Oil Painting, Yoga and Astronomy to Animation using 3-D Max. There’s no limit really.

6. Play to Peer Pressure most of the times:

I had been told in school to carve my own individuality and not be guided by peer pressure. Conversely, in a B-School, I believe Peer Pressure is an element that one should exploit wisely. So if in a Costing Viva there are 110 before you who have told you that they have said that Cost Control is better than Cost Cutting and you have reason to believe them and you are the 111th, do not , I repeat do not take a chance and play the hero to say the converse. Follow the crowd for something called Relative Grading will plunge you to depths you would have never imagined existed. I used to do a quick poll before any individual assignment submission to gauge how many are actually submitting on time and if a substantial part weren’t going to, I put on my earphones back on for that Quentin Tarantino flick, I’d left mid-way.

7. Don’t take anything at face value:

This I picked up from a Harsha Bhogle videotape in our library. If something is coming your way and it seems to easy, question its validity. So even if you are mid-way understanding a concept from the batch topper and you are grasping it easily, question him in between. If you thought you calculated the Black-Scholes with real ease in the examination don’t sit back and relax but speak to a few people around you. Chances are you screwed up big-time and that means managing better impression in the eyes of the professor from next class. (Refer Rule 1). I once thought I had a real easy Costing paper and came out half an hour before the allotted time only to realize later I missed out on the last Question that was listed on the second page of the question paper.

8. Speak it out in the hostel rooms:

If there is something that you vehemently disagreed with in class, don’t let it play in your mind but speak it out in the mess, the gymnasium, the nearby bar or in your hostel room. I can never under-estimate the wisdom I gained from thrashing things out with my pals outside the classroom. We never reached a consensus and that’s exactly I value those heated discussions right up there in my takeaways from SPJIMR.
9. I am not like everybody else:

I said play to peer pressure most of the times but when things were going to have a greater impact on me and these related to career choices, I was happy to let go of the crowd and tell myself that I wasn’t like everybody else. Placements are the craziest time in a B-School because the stakes are really high and you would see people around you apply helter-skelter to companies and you would be tempted to do so too. Know yourself well and when you feel like taking that step that 30 others are taking around you and you don’t have a reason as to why “ Me too?”, pause a second and tell yourself, “You have a right to be different from others”. If that doesn’t still soothe your nerves, go right ahead and as I said previously exploit the power of peer pressure. It never let me down. On an average my Marketing Batchmates would apply across 4 different sectors and 12 companies for Final Placements. I applied to 2 sectors and 6 companies. 2 of the companies did not even shortlist me. I came out more than fine in the other 4.

“Truth be told,” Harsha Bhogle says “Management is fantastic general education”. If you don’t try too hard, just let it be and have a smile on your face most of the times you will do great!

Issac M. John a.k.a CATAMANIAC Marketing Management, SPJIMR

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Henry Mintzberg on managment study

Attending the annual meeting of the Academy of Management with Henry Mintzberg is the business-world equivalent of attending the MTV Video Music Awards with Mick Jagger. The Academy is the world’s largest association devoted to the study of management, and its annual meeting is a marketplace for aspiring professors looking to land their first job. At the presidential luncheon, where Mintzberg is to receive an award, he can scarcely manage a forkful of pasta with cream sauce without being tapped on the shoulder again and again by starry-eyed fans. “I just had to meet you,” gushes one such follower. “I can’t wait to tell my colleagues!” When Mintzberg bounds to the stage to claim his award, applause courses through the cavernous ballroom of the Toronto Sheraton Centre. As the luncheon ends, he is mobbed by well-wishers and colleagues. Posing awkwardly for a photograph with a professor from the Netherlands, Mintzberg looks both gratified yet a bit irritated by the fuss.
His fans are enthusiastic for a reason. With 10 books and more than 100 published articles to his credit — and with a faculty position at McGill University, in Montreal, as well as at INSEAD, the high-profile business school outside Paris — Mintzberg, 61, is a dominant figure in the field of management and strategy. For some 30 years, he’s been contributing pathbreaking ideas and trailblazing analyses, all rooted in the real work of companies and their executives, to a discipline that often feels stuck in the abstract and the theoretical. And although many of his ideas were considered radical (some would say downright heretical) when he introduced them, Mintzberg is “hot” again: More and more companies are realizing that there’s an enormous difference between a CEO with keen financial instincts and a great leader. Mintzberg has shown that management itself is as much a Jackson Pollock painting as it is a quantifiable science. “There’s a reason I’m getting this award in 2000 instead of in 1990,” Mintzberg says, flashing an ironic smile.
It would be easy for Mintzberg to bask in the overdue glory, to become yet another past-his-prime academic celebrity who recycles old ideas into new books and gets paid ridiculous sums of money to regale corporate bigwigs at off-sites. But that’s never been Mintzberg’s style. Indeed, these days, Mintzberg is in hot pursuit of a personal goal that he wrote down on a scrap of paper almost two years ago and then locked away in a vault at a bank in Montreal. He plans to open the vault someday to see if he will have delivered on the goal. One of the things that he wrote: “Change management education.”
It sounds like a strange ambition, given that management education in general, and the MBA in particular, has never been more popular. Top business schools are overflowing with applications; companies famous for their mutual love affair with MBAs (Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Co. immediately come to mind) now scramble to compete for the affections of the top graduates from the best schools. If it ain’t broke, one can’t help but wonder, why fix it?
Pose that question to Mintzberg, and you’ll get an earful as he explains, calmly but firmly, that management education is terribly broke. “The MBA is a fabulous design for learning about business,” he says. “But if you’re trying to train managers, it’s dead wrong. The MBA trains the wrong people in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons.”
Mintzberg concedes that the U.S. style of management education is in demand around the world — but mainly, he says, for the big bucks that such a degree confers upon its holder. “Right now, we are creating a kind of neo-aristocracy,” he complains, “a ‘business class’ that believes it has the right to lead because it spent a couple of years in a classroom.” But if you really want to learn how to be a manager, he says, you need to be in an environment with, well, other managers. “This is supposed to be about leadership,” he says. “You can’t create a leader in a classroom.”
Mintzberg has other questions. How can aspiring managers expect to learn from business-school case studies — which are obsolete on the day they are printed and which give the professor too much control over classroom discussion? What does it mean to learn to think globally? It’s not enough, Mintzberg insists, to teach American-style ideas to a class with a smattering of students from outside the United States. To become a global-minded manager, you have to learn how people from other countries and other cultures think and act in various situations. And how many companies really value the idea of management education itself — as opposed to the credential? “I ask a lot of managerial groups, ‘What happened on the day you became a manager?’ ” says Mintzberg. “And the answer, almost inevitably, is ‘Nothing.’ It’s like sex. You’re supposed to figure it out.”
Lots of professors are good at raising provocative questions. What distinguishes Mintzberg is that he is devising answers. Along with a colleague, Jonathan Gosling of Lancaster University Management School, in the United Kingdom, Mintzberg has created an educational experience that is in many ways the anti-MBA. The program, an International Masters in Practicing Management (IMPM) , is now in its fifth cycle. Nearly 180 participants have gone through the program, and, according to those participants and their sponsoring executives, it has had an indelible impact on their personal and professional lives. “It changes people more than any other program I’ve seen — ever,” says Frank McAuley, 44, a Kellogg MBA and vice president for leadership effectiveness at the Royal Bank of Canada, which has sent 16 people through the program. “It brings them to a different place.”
Learning to Learn
Henry Mintzberg’s entire career has focused on understanding how managers make decisions and how they develop strategy. After studying mechanical engineering at McGill, he went to work in operations research at Canadian National Railways. Then he went to MIT to study management and decided to switch tracks, so to speak, because he was more interested in how people worked than in how things operated.
In his first book, The Nature of Managerial Work (Harper and Row, 1973) , Mintzberg explored his topic by watching what managers actually did in their offices, rather than, as most academics do, by inventing theories and then trying to back them up. What he found demolished the assumption that managers were organized and confident planners. His research demonstrated that real bosses spent more time responding quickly to crises than they spent doing anything else — a lesson that many new-economy chieftains think they’re discovering only today. Although the book was rejected by 15 publishers before it reached bookstore shelves, it became a huge success — and Mintzberg’s career as an influential author was on its way.
Although Mintzberg had been railing against management education for years, what had been theory became practice in 1993, as he was considering a new MBA program at McGill. He heard about a more practical model that Gosling had been using at Lancaster with British Airways executives. He first tried, and failed, to create a joint program along the Lancaster lines with INSEAD. Then he approached Gosling himself. Working together, the two decided to create something completely different: a program that focused on teaching real executives how to deal with real problems, the kind that don’t fit neatly into case studies. The duo toyed with calling the program the “Alternative MBA,” and then with calling it the “Real MBA.”
“That wouldn’t distinguish it,” says Gosling, “so we had the notion of ‘Real-Alternative MBA,’ which would have the acronym RAMBA, a sort of feminine Rambo. We liked that, but there was no way that the management school at Lancaster was going to allow us to launch something called ‘RAMBA’ while it was still trying to sell the MBA.” Once it was dubbed the ‘IMPM,’ Mintzberg and Gosling decided to make the program more global by adding INSEAD, the Indian Institute of Management and Japanese faculty from several schools, including Hitotsubashi University. The first cycle began in spring 1996.
So what makes the IMPM different — and more worthwhile — for managers? Start with this: There is no home campus for the program, which consists of two-week modules spread over 16 months and five countries: Canada, France, India, Japan, and the UK. After each module, when students have returned to work, they must write a reflection paper describing how what they learned relates to their job. They meet regularly with a tutor in their area and work on “ventures,” which are program-long projects to create real change in their own work environment. There are five modules: Managing Self, the reflective mind-set; Managing Relationships, the collaborative mind-set; Managing Organizations, the analytic mind-set; Managing Context, the worldly mind-set; and Managing Change, the action mind-set. Each module is presented by one of the five partner universities. Students travel to each campus for one module and spend the time immersed in the home culture of the country, making company visits (called “field studies”) and learning from colleagues, some of whom are now in their home country. “It has been absolutely a life-changing experience,” says Jane K. McCroary, 45, project manager for the online travel portal at Deutche Lufthansa AG and a member of the first graduating class. “Somehow IMPM learning was implicit in the stomach, in the gut. You learned not explicit things but things that improved judgment and performance.”
In the IMPM, all students must be practicing managers and all must be sponsored by their companies, which include Alcan Aluminum Ltd., AstraZeneca PLC, Deutche Lufthansa, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Matsushita Communication Industrial Co. Ltd., Motorola, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Students stay in their jobs, so that classroom activity can be connected to ongoing work experiences. The IMPM also encourages people who already work in groups, whether those groups are in-person or virtual, to attend the program together. This is both a support network and a better way of ensuring that new ideas will become reality when the participants return to the work world.
Another critical distinction is the concept of reflection — quite a switch from traditional executive education, which uses a lot of “action” learning or case studies. “The last thing managers need from us is boot camp — intense, high-pressure classroom activity,” says Mintzberg. “They live boot camp every day! What they need is to step back from the pressures and to reflect on their experiences.” Because Mintzberg rejects the notion of silos, most of the business functions are covered either in the analytic module or in “close learning” (otherwise known as “distance learning”) between modules. This doesn’t mean that you have to hug a tree or dance at a powwow at every session of the IMPM — though you will sometimes find yourself in drama workshops or yoga classes. What it does mean is that you must learn to ask the right questions, to reflect, and to avoid the traditional manager’s trap of reacting to one crisis after another. “Management is, above all, a practice, where art, science, and craft meet,” says Mintzberg.
It is that type of interaction that seems to have the most impact. When McCroary was in Japan for the collaborative module, she was walking with another student, an engineer from Matsushita, amid cherry blossoms falling from trees onto a driveway. “He explained to me that a lot of Japanese haiku is written about exactly this event, and I admitted that I had been thinking ‘What a messy tree.’ The combined effect was so powerful that when I got home, I made it a point to select people who were different from me in a project.”
A recent innovation at the IMPM is the 50-50 rule. Unlike the traditional lecture or case format, where a professor is the only expert in the room, IMPM sessions allow students to spend half of the time in conversation with other students. The discussions often veer off on tangents — but that’s the point, says Mintzberg: The executives must decide for themselves what’s relevant. “Our program doesn’t take more work,” he says. “It almost takes less work. But you have to have a lot of depth and understanding and then react to the class.” The Royal Bank of Canada’s McAuley sat in on a session in Bangalore the day after the IMPM participants had visited several Indian companies. The next morning, like every morning, began with a session called “reflections.” “That was the most fascinating conversation in an academic setting that I had ever seen,” McAuley says. “We zoomed around the room discussing everything from political to economic issues, and then got into ethics and business.”
The IMPM’s managerial exchange takes the 50-50 rule to its logical extreme. Between two modules, participants spend a week at a partner’s office and then present a paper detailing their observations. That was the highlight of the program for Jeff Guthrie, 42, a 24-year veteran of the Royal Bank of Canada. He accompanied his partner, Helga, an Icelandic native and a team leader for West Africa for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to a refugee camp in Sierra Leone — her “office.” Apart from the shock that he felt from seeing firsthand the extent of the human suffering there, Guthrie learned a real management lesson. “It was typical, if we had a problem, for our solution to be ‘give me, give me, give me the resources that I need to solve this,’ ” he says. “What the Red Cross taught me was that people said, ‘How can I solve the problem with what I have?’ ”
“Move Society — Have Some Impact”
The IMPM’s spirit of informality and on-the-fly innovation come straight out of Mintzberg’s worldview. He seems to find inspiration in any kind of conversation or event, such as the Montreal jubilation gospel choir that he saw last Christmas. “It was the best thing I’d ever seen on a stage in my entire life,” he says. “Not that it was the most polished performance; it was just unbelievable energy. I watched that and said the role of a manager is to bring out the energy that’s inherent in people.”
Mintzberg takes that same open-mindedness to his research on strategy. “I often think that if we got rid of the word ‘strategy,’ we’d be better off. Not because strategy is bad, but because we formalize it. Strategic planning is an oxymoron. The idea that it is immaculately conceived, like Moses walking down from the mountain, is silly.”
Now that the IMPM is established, Mintzberg is moving on. He has stepped down as the program’s chairman (Gosling will take over his role) , but he’s hardly abandoning the cause. Instead, he’s trying to “diffuse” the concept to other sectors. He’s writing a book called Developing Managers, Not MBAs, about management and about the theory and practice of the IMPM. Already there is an IMPM for Canadians in the volunteer sector, and plans for a health-care IMPM are under way. And the day after the awards luncheon in Toronto, Mintzberg and his team met with executive-development heads from nine companies to sell them on Mintzberg’s latest concept — ALP, the Advanced Leadership Program. It’s an IMPM for very senior managers. If all that isn’t enough, there’s the rest of civilization to think about. Also written on Mintzberg’s locked-up sheet of paper are the words “Move society — have some impact.” So Mintzberg is stretching beyond management with a new book, tentatively titled Getting Past Smith and Marx: Toward a Balanced Society. He thinks the structure of current political and social dialogue has been corrupted by the twin tyrannies of shareholder value and rampant consumerism.
The success of the IMPM suggests that after years of MBA bashing from the Canadian wilderness, the world may finally be moving toward Mintzberg’s point of view. Traditional MBA programs are now trying to bring out the more emotional, thoughtful side of management. Companies everywhere, desperate for more effective leadership, are working with their executives to develop more robust approaches to managing, rather than simply sending them off to cookie-cutter executive-education programs. “It was extraordinary at the Academy of Management this year to hear so many people saying the same thing as Henry’s been saying for years,” notes Gosling.
And yet, while that’s happy news for Mintzberg, it’s obvious that part of him relishes the role of the renegade, the naysayer, the lonely voice on the fringe. “I’ve always been a cynic about things that are too popular and too widely believed,” he frets, peering intently over round, metal-framed glasses. Indeed, Mintzberg says that he does his most creative thinking when he’s involved in some type of solitary physical activity, whether it be canoeing, cross-country skiing, or bicycling. Back in 1987, when he was finishing an eight-day bike trip from Paris to the Charles de Gaulle Airport, he was loaded down with gear and luggage. As he approached the Champs-Elysées, Mintzberg saw a phalanx of police officers guarding a bizarrely empty avenue. He asked what was going on, but no one responded, so Mintzberg slipped past a barrier for a bit of experiential learning. He rode alone down the long, wide avenue until he was spotted by a slack-jawed policeman at the end of the street.
It turned out that the Canadian professor had nearly managed to become the first cyclist to ride along the Champs-Elysées as the Tour de France came to a close. It’s not a bad metaphor for his career: one of the most original minds in management, charting his own course, being chased by others, who are pedaling furiously and who get to the same spot as Mintzberg — only much later.
Jennifer Reingold ( is a Fast Company senior writer. Contact Henry Mintzberg by email ( , or visit the IMPM on the Web ( .
Sidebar: What’s Fast
How do you get stressed-out executives to turn off their cell-phones, close their day planners, and open their minds to learning? It’s a question that both fascinates and torments Henry Mintzberg, Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University, visiting scholar at INSEAD, and cocreator of the International Masters in Practicing Management. Here are some of his basic beliefs.
Real executives only, please. The concept of teaching management to twentysomethings who are just a few years out of college makes no sense to Mintzberg. Only by having been in the trenches can you relate personally to what’s being taught. You must be sponsored by your company and should continue to work while you’re in the program. Only if you have experiences of your own to share can you contribute to class discussions.
Your colleagues are also your teachers. The IMPM uses what’s called the “50-50 rule,” which means that for every hour the professor speaks, students get an hour to discuss issues that are relevant to them. That allows the lessons of the classroom to flow immediately into the real-life experiences of the students. And because IMPM students sit in groups around tables, rather than in the standard U-shaped classroom (which Mintzberg believes deifies the professor) , it’s easier for lessons to flow.
Smash the silos. Most MBA programs still teach through the prism of specific subjects such as finance or marketing. But that’s no way to learn, according to Mintzberg. “The MBA is fine for training,” he says. “But the concept of teaching specific skills in finance or in marketing does not help with the real-life decisions that people make in the business world each and every day.” The IMPM, in contrast, uses holistic mind-sets such as “reflective” and “analytic” to connect the dots. And since many of the IMPM students are now in general-management roles, that’s where they should stay. Says Mintzberg: “Why would you want to push them back into the silos?”
Be ready to abandon the script. In the IMPM, each module is redesigned at the end of the preceding one to bring in some of the most current problems and issues faced by the students. If everyone is struggling with e-commerce, for example, the program is flexible enough to spend extra time in that area and to eliminate a workshop that is less than enthralling to the students. While there is always a blueprint, it is up to the students to make their education relate to their jobs, and the IMPM professors adjust where necessary.

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The Five mind of a manager

The five minds of a manager
Dec 31
Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberg Harvard Business Review

The chief executive of a major Canadian company complained recently that he couldn’t get his engineers to think like managers. It’s a common complaint, but behind it lies an uncommonly important question: what does it mean to think like a manager?

Sadly, little attention has been paid to that question in recent years. Most of us have become so enamoured of leadership that management has been pushed into the background. Nobody aspires to being a good manager any more; everybody wants to be a great leader. But the separation of management from leadership is dangerous.

Just as management without leadership encourages an uninspired style that deadens activities, leadership without management encourages a disconnected style that promotes hubris. And we all know the destructive power of hubris in organisations. So let’s get back to plain old management.
The problem, of course, is that plain old management is complicated and confusing. Be global, managers are told, and be local. Collaborate, and compete. Change, perpetually, and maintain order. Make the numbers while nurturing your people.

How is anyone supposed to reconcile all this? The fact is, no one can. To be effective, managers need to face the juxtapositions in order to arrive at a deep integration of these seemingly contradictory concerns. That means they must focus not only on what they have to accomplish, but also on how they have to think. Managers need various mind-sets.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with headquarters in Geneva, has a management development concern. It worries that it may be drifting too far towards a fast-action culture. It knows that it must act quickly in responding to disasters everywhere – earthquakes and wars, floods and famines – but it also sees the need to engage in the slower, more delicate task of building a capacity for action that is careful, thoughtful, and tailored to local conditions and needs.

Many business organisations face a similar problem: they know how to execute, but they are not so adept at stepping back to reflect on their situation. Others face the opposite predicament: they get so mired in thinking about their problems that they can’t get things done fast enough.

We all know bureaucracies that are great at planning and organising but slow to respond to market forces, just as we’re all acquainted with the nimble companies that react to every stimulus, but sloppily, and have to be constantly fixing things. And then, of course, there are those that suffer from both afflictions – for example, firms whose marketing departments are absorbed with grand positioning statements while their sales forces chase every possible deal.

Those two aspects establish the bounds of management: everything that every effective manager does is sandwiched between action on the ground and reflection in the abstract. Action without reflection is thoughtless; reflection without action is passive. Every manager has to find a way to combine these two mind-sets to function at the point where reflective thinking meets practical doing.

But action and reflection about what? One obvious answer is: about collaboration, about getting things done co-operatively with other people in negotiations, for example, where a manager cannot act alone.
Another answer is that action, reflection and collaboration have to be rooted in a deep appreciation of reality in all its facets. We call this mind-set worldly, a quality the Oxford English Dictionary defines as experienced in life, sophisticated, practical.

Finally, action, reflection and collaboration, as well as worldliness, must subscribe to a certain rationality or logic; they rely on an analytic mind-set, too. So we have five sets of the managerial mind, five ways in which managers interpret and deal with the world around them. Each has a dominant subject, or target, of its own. For reflection, the subject is the self; there can be no insight without self-knowledge. Collaboration takes the subject beyond the self into the manager’s network of relationships. Analysis goes a step beyond that, to the organisation; organisations depend on the systematic decomposition of activities, and that’s what analysis is all about. Beyond the organisation lies what we consider the subject of the worldly mind-set, namely context – the worlds around the organisation. Finally, the action mind-set pulls everything together through the process of change in self, relationships, organisation and context.

The practice of managing, then, involves five perspectives:

Managing self: the reflective mind-set.

Managing organisations: the analytical mind-set.

Managing context: the worldly mind-set.

Managing relationships: the collaborative mind-set

Managing change: the action mind-set.

Managing self.
Managers who are sent off to development courses these days often find themselves being welcomed to boot camp. But this is wrong-headed. While managers certainly don’t need a country club atmosphere for development, neither do they need boot camp. Most managers we know already live boot camp. Besides, in real boot camps, soldiers learn to march and obey, not to stop and think.
These days, what managers desperately need is to stop and think, to step back and reflect thoughtfully on their experiences.
In his book Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky makes the interesting point that events, or happenings, become experience only after they have been reflected upon thoughtfully: most people do not accumulate a body of experience. Most people go through life undergoing a series of happenings, which pass through their systems undigested. Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, related to general patterns and synthesised.
Unless the meaning is understood, managing is mindless. Hence, we take reflection to be that space suspended between experience and explanation, where the mind makes the connections. Imagine yourself in a meeting when someone suddenly erupts with a personal rant. You’re tempted to ignore or dismiss the outburst you’ve heard, after all, that the person is having problems at home. But why not use it to reflect on your own reaction whether embarrassment, anger, or frustration and so recognise some comparable feelings in yourself? Your own reaction now becomes a learning experience for you: You have opened a space for imagination, between your experience and your explanation. It can make all the difference.
Organisations may not need mirror people, who see in everything only reflections of their own behaviour. But neither do they need window people, who cannot see beyond the images in front of them. They need managers who see both ways.
Successful visions are not immaculately conceived; they are painted, stroke by stroke, out of the experiences of the past. Reflective managers have a healthy respect for history not just the grand history of deals and disasters, but the everyday history of all the little actions that make organisations work.
Managing organisations. Literally, analysis means to let loose (from the Greek ana, meaning up and lyein, meaning loosen). Analysis loosens up complex phenomena by breaking them into component parts by decomposing them.

Analysis happens everywhere in context (industry analysis), with relationships (360-degree assessments), and so on. But it is especially related to organisation. You simply can’t get organised without analysis, especially in a large company. Good analysis provides a language for organising; it allows people to share an understanding of what is driving their efforts; it provides measures for performance. And organisational structure itself is fundamentally analytic; it is a means of decomposition to establish the division of labor. Just look at any organisation chart, with all the boxes neatly lined up.
Picture the modern manager in an office in a tall building, looking down on the grid of the city below and across at the offices of companies in other buildings. From this perspective, the manager does not see individual people so much as systems of organisation, power and communication. Turning around, that manager is surrounded by the plush paraphernalia of his or her own company, the fruits of many people’s tireless work on structures and systems and techniques. All of this represents analysis in the conventional sense: order and decomposition. How is such a manager to escape the analytic mind-set? We prefer a different question: how is the manager to get truly inside the analytic mind-set, beyond the superficialities of obvious analysis, into the essential meanings of structures and systems? The key to analysing effectively is to get beyond conventional approaches in order to appreciate how analysis works and what effect it has on the organisation.

Consider three related tasks, one simple, one complicated, one complex.
Building a pleasure boat can be relatively straightforward; it’s about such things as the ratio of displacement to length. Building an aircraft carrier is far more complicated, involving the co-ordination of all kinds of sub-systems and supply networks. Yet even here the component parts can be readily understood and the necessary behaviours made rather predictable. But a decision on whether to deploy that aircraft carrier can be truly complex: who is to say with any certainty what is the right thing to do, or even what is the best thing under the circumstances?

Making that kind of complex decision means standing above shallow analysis and easy technique just running the numbers and going deeper into the analytic mind-set. You have to take into account soft data, including the values underlying such choices. Deep analysis does not seek to simplify complex decisions, but to sustain the complexity while maintaining the organisation’s capacity to take action.
The problem for many managers today, as well as for the business schools that train them, is not a lack of analysis but too much of it, at least too much conventional analysis. This is exemplified by that popular metaphor in finance of the tennis player who watches the scoreboard while missing the ball (much like the marketer who studies the crowd while missing the sale).

The trick in the analytic mind-set is to appreciate scores and crowds while watching the ball.
Managing context. We live on a globe that from a distance looks pretty uniform.
Globalisation sees the world from a distance, assuming and encouraging a certain homogeneity of behaviour. Is that what we want from our managers? A closer look reveals something rather different.
Far from being uniform, this world is made up of all kinds of worlds. Should we not, then, be encouraging our managers to be more worldly, more experienced in life, in both sophisticated and practical ways? In other words, should we not be getting into worlds beyond our own – into other people’s circumstances, cultures so we can better know our own world?

Being worldly does not require global coverage, just as global coverage does not a worldly mind-set make. Indeed, global coverage does not even ensure a global perspective, given that the managers of so many global companies are rooted in the culture of the headquarters’ country. But there are companies that seem to be reasonably global as well as worldly; a Shell, perhaps. Shell has, of course, long covered the globe. But because of social pressures, including a headquarters that has always had to work across two cultures (Dutch and British), it has struck us as rather worldly. By this we mean that the company tailors and blends its parts across the world, socially and environmentally as well as economically. It must find and extract oil without violating the rights of the people under whose territories the oil lies, and it has to refine and sell that oil in ways that are respectful of the local environment. That may seem clear enough today, but think about what companies like Shell went through to get there.

While global managers may spend a lot of time in the air, they become worldly when their feet are planted firmly on the ground of eclectic experience. That means getting out of their offices, beyond the towers, to spend time where products are produced, customers served and environments threatened.
But maybe it’s not quite as hard as it seems. One way to begin is through immersion in a strange context: get into someone else’s world as a mirror to your own. To manage context is to manage on the edges, between the organisation and the various worlds that surround it. Managers have to mediate those wide zones where organisation meets context not just, for example, customers acting in markets, however differentiated, but all those particular people in particular places buying and using products in their own particular ways.

Managing relationships.
Managing is about working with people as bosses and subordinates but, more important, as colleagues and partners. Yet despite all the rhetoric about collaboration, in the West, at least, we often take a narrow view. Thanks to the influence of economic theory, we see people as independent actors, detachable human resources or assets that can be moved around, bought and sold, combined and downsized. That is not the collaborative mind-set.

A truly collaborative mind-set does not involve managing people so much as the relationships among people, in teams and projects as well as across divisions and alliances. It means getting beyond empowerment, a word implying that the people who know the work best must somehow receive the blessing of their managers to do it, and into commitment. It also means getting away from the popular heroic style of managing and moving towards a more engaging style.
By being worldly themselves, they foster collaboration among others. And they do less controlling, thus allowing other people to be in greater control of their own work. Our Japanese colleagues call this leadership in the background; it lets as many ordinary people as possible lead.

When John Kotter was asked if the members of the Harvard Business School class of 1974, whose careers he followed in his book The New Rules, were team players, he replied that it was fair to say that these people want to create the team and lead it to some glory, as opposed to being a member of a team that’s being driven by somebody else. That is not the collaborative mind-set. Having to run the team may be necessary at times although we suspect it’s needed far less often than most people think but it hardly represents a collaborative point of view, nor does it foster teamwork. Leaders don’t do most of the things that their organisations get done; they do not even make them get done. Rather, they help to establish the structures, conditions, and attitudes through which things get done. And that requires a collaborative mind-set.

We talk a great deal about networks these days, as well as teams, task forces, alliances and knowledge work. Yet we still picture managers on top. Well, then, picture yourself on top of a network, looking down on it.

That puts you out of it; how can you possibly manage its relationships that way? To be in a collaborative mind-set means to be inside, involved, to manage throughout. But it has a more profound meaning – to get management beyond managers, to distribute it so that responsibility flows naturally to whoever can take the initiative and pull things together. Think of who manages the World Wide Web.
Managing change. Imagine your organisation as a chariot pulled by wild horses representing the emotions, aspirations and motives of all the people in the organisation.
Holding a steady course requires just as much skill as steering around to a new direction. An action mind-set, especially at senior levels, is not about whipping the horses into a frenzy, careening hither and yon. It is about developing a sensitive awareness of the terrain and of what the team is capable of doing in it, and thereby helping to set and maintain direction, coaxing everyone along.
There is nowadays an overwhelming emphasis on action at the expense of reflection. The Red Cross Federation is unusual, not in experiencing this problem, but in being aware of it. In addition, people are obsessed with change. We are told that we live in times of great upheaval, that everything is changing, so we had better be in a constant state of alert.
Look around. What do you see that has changed recently? Your clothing? (Your grandparents wore cotton and wool; they too buttoned buttons.) Your car? (It uses the basic technology of the Model T.) The aeroplane you’re flying in?
(That technology is newer: the first commercial jet aircraft took flight in 1952.) Your telephone? (That changed about 10 years ago. Unless, of course, you are not using a cellular phone.) Our point is not that nothing is changing. Something is always changing.
Right now it is information technology. But many other things are not changing at all and these we don’t notice (like buttons). We tend to focus on what is changing and conclude that everything is. That is hardly a reflective mind-set, and it is detrimental as well to the action mind-set.
We have to sober up to the reality that change is not pervasive, and that the phenomenon of change is not new. If the reflective mind-set has to respect history, then the action mind-set could use a little humility.
The dominant view of managing change is Cartesian: action results from deliberate strategies, carefully planned, that unfold as systematically managed sequences of decisions. That is the analytic mind-set, not the action one. Monsanto went into genetically engineered agriculture with that approach, with its strategy all worked out in advance. With control of seed varieties and certain pesticides and fertilisers, it could bring an entire ecosystem to the market. And it had the research capacity and presence worldwide to do it. So it set about a series of brilliantly conceived acquisitions and effectively positioned the company to be the Microsoft of agribusiness. But the farmers and consumers weren’t there – they were more enthusiastic about continuity at that point – and the plan collapsed.
Change, to be successful, cannot follow some mechanistic schedule of steps, of formulation followed by implementation. Action and reflection have to blend in a natural flow, and that has to include collaboration.
Of course, energised action is necessary too, but that doesn’t mean being hyperactive or fiddling around endlessly with structure. It means remaining curious, alert, experimental. Changing is a learning process, and so is maintaining course. We may think of stasis as the norm and change as driven, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Comments (1)

cat 2006 :tips

ou filled in your CAT application form. You sent it in well before the required date of September 10.
CAT — a manager’s tale
Take a deep breath and digest this — CAT is designed to test the skill sets you will need to be a great manager.
Just remember — management is a different cup of tea. Your intellectual abilities are important, but they are definitely not the end-all at making you a pro. There are other skills that are just as important.
So, look at the CAT exam like a typical multi-dimensional problem a manager would face.
Normally any such problem would have to be solved in a given time frame. The solution should adhere to certain basic minimum requirements.
A good manager should also be able to provide a solution that is fairly accurate. Besides, he should not crumble under pressure.
These also happen to be the skills you need to ace CAT.
A question of choice
For instance, how good a time manager are you?
Everyone knows the intellectual abilities required to tackle CAT are not exceptionally high.
Instead, make intelligent decisions. Choose questions that will maximise your score in the given the time constraint of two hours.
A multi-dimensional focus
Sometimes, a singleminded focus does not pay.
A manager should have the ability to tackle various problems just as he should be able to tackle various aspects of a single problem.
In CAT terminology, this translates to proving your competence in each of the sections, because each of them tests a totally different aspect of one’s aptitude.
The best of the rest
The important point to note here is that one is not expected to get an equal score in each section. What is more important is proving you are among the best in that section.
For instance, the number of students who get a score of 20 in Verbal Ability is far higher than those who score the same in Quantitative Aptitude.
An ideal allocation of time would be 40 minutes for each section, unless one is exceptionally strong or weak in one of them.
Dealing with stress
Stress is another important factor.
This feeling of pressure is compounded by the fact that one does not know the ideal marks one should score in CAT.
Adding fuel to the fire is the limited number of seats each IIM offers.
The importance of accuracy
Finally, we come to the most important aspect — accuracy.
Students with a modest number of attempts and a degree of accuracy in excess of 85 percent or so manage to outsmart others.
After all, as a manager, one has to take good decisions.
The P of preparation
So how does one prepare? Believe me, it is not too late.
CAT is not about good old hard work. It is about smart work.
For instance, the concept of multiple-choice questions is CAT’s most powerful and user-friendly feature. Very often, you can eliminate answer choices or work backwards or, even better, use a combination of both these strategies.
Time management is something that comes with practice. Choosing which questions to answer, however, is the result of a combination of self-assessment and practice.
Late starters
For those of your who are late starters, I would suggest you avoid focusing on your weak aspects.
For instance, if you are not confident about permutations and combinations, it would be better if you could just learn the basics before focusing on your stronger points which, for example, could be geometry.
This is more applicable in the case of QA, given the relatively low number of average attempts.
It is important you understand and manipulate the constraints of CAT to your benefit.
The B school funda
CAT is the most important part of getting admission into the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management.
A good performance in CAT gives one a head start over the others, and often offsets other factors in the admission process.
Just as the days of cost have given way to the value-for-money policy, so have the

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