5 The role of the MBA in developing managers
Why do managers study for an MBA? Below are three examples of people who would like to study for an MBA, and their reasons.
Indra lives in Indonesia. She has worked for the Ministry of Telecommunications ever since leaving university. She is hoping to be promoted within the next few years, to a position in which she will have to represent the country in regional or international meetings in Asia, organised by the Asia Development Bank or one of the United Nations organisations. She needs to develop her business knowledge as well as her proficiency in the use of IT and her ability to speak English in the context of international conferences. She wants to be able to prepare documents in English and communicate with international civil servants.
Costas works at a managerial level in his family’s construction company in Greece. He left high school with the highest possible qualifications and has not studied formally since. However, he has completed apprenticeships in the field of construction and has been trained by other members of the company. He has always worked for the company and intends to continue there. Now the company wants to invest in him so that he can develop strategic thinking skills and international vocabulary in order to do business with international partners. His basic business English is good but he lacks confidence and wants to improve it.
Dominique is employed as a laboratory technician in a large company in Belgium. She wants to upgrade her skills as she is worried about redundancies and feels that a qualification would make it possible for her either to get a better job in her present company or to move to another company. Although English is used in her present workplace, courses were offered to more senior staff only, so those at her level did not get the chance to develop their language skills. Dominique has technical expertise but she feels her management skills need developing. She would like to continue to work in an international company because she feels the pay and conditions are better than in a national one.
As you can see, people may have a range of reasons for wanting to study an MBA. They have different aims and ambitions, and come to study with very different backgrounds. They may have technical and/or practical expertise, many years’ experience and broad knowledge of their business, but they may also have clear goals that they want to achieve through their studies.
Purpose: to think about and describe your reasons for returning to study, including what knowledge and strengths you already have, what areas you feel you need to develop, and your aims and ambitions in the long term.
Task: now that you have read the MBA stories given above, what is your story? Write a summary of your background and reasons for wanting to study. This activity may help you clarify your goals.
Did you only consider yourself when writing your story? Or are there other people affected by your decision to do a management degree – family, organisation, friends, for example? In what way are these stakeholders involved in your plans and goals?
Purpose: to read a short newspaper article about MBAs, and to clarify what can be gained from an MBA course.
Task: first, make a list of the aims of Indra, Costas and Dominique, the students described in the examples above. Then give a good reason why the MBA is suitable for them.
Now read Text 4 and identify how the MBA might help you personally. Use the headings ‘Aims’ and ‘How an MBA would help’ to guide you in writing down your thoughts.
What do graduates of the MBA say is one of its most useful elements?
Calm amid the storm: why MBA courses have never had it so good
In the current economic climate, MBAs have never had it so good. Their appeal is counter-cyclical, with many applicants taking the chance to polish skills, build networks and look at alternative careers during hard times. ‘They give a chance to look at theory behind business practice in an atmosphere of calm and self-reflection,’ says Paul Forrester, director of MBAs at the University of Birmingham. ‘You develop skills you might not have discovered.’
In essence, an MBA gives a solid grounding in general management, and is targeted at graduates with several years of management experience.
‘You emerge with an appreciation of all angles of business,’ says Terry Kendrick, MBA director at Norwich Business School. ‘You might spot if an accountant is pulling the wool over your eyes* in a board meeting, identify a problem with a supply chain or recognise when a marketing department isn’t delivering.’
Graduates of MBAs also say one of the most useful elements is coming into contact with individuals destined for global managerial careers. ‘This ready-made network of influential contacts tends to outlast any of the knowledge gained,’ says Anne-Marie Martin, director of the Careers Group at the University of London.
(Text source: adapted from Pozniak, 2009)
- *Note: ‘pulling the wool over someone’s eyes’ means ‘deceiving’ or ‘misleading’ them.
Graduates of MBA courses say that one of the most useful elements is ‘coming into contact with individuals destined for global management careers’:
This ready-made network of influential contacts tends to outlast any knowledge gained.
at the University of London)