What use is an MBA?

Mar 21 2005 by Mike Jones Print This Article

An increasing number of people are asking whether an MBA is the right training programme for modern managers.

The question goes right to the heart of the dysfunction between what business requires from Business Schools and what Business schools actually deliver.

University degrees in Business and Management (as in any other subject) deliver knowledge whereas training delivers skill application and competency improvement.

Education is clearly different from training and it is incorrect to look to any degree course to replicate a training programme. This is not the purpose of education.

If this question can be interpreted to mean "does the pursuit and attainment of an MBA lead to a more effective manager" then the answer must be subjective, situational and unquantifiable. It is true, there are successful business leaders who hold MBA degrees but equally so, there are those who do not.

By the same token there are many business leaders particularly in the SME sector who have no business qualifications at all and yet are successful.

An MBA can make a contribution to effectiveness but of itself will not translate students into successful managers. What it will deliver is knowledge and understanding and from those aspects springs confidence.

Most MBA graduates will agree that the legacy of their qualification results in increased confidence and ability. It provides a different perspective on business, a more analytical approach together with a broad network of business contacts.

If these attributes can be construed to be the right training platform for the modern manager then the MBA is appropriate.

In reality, then, an MBA is probably just one way of developing managers. Certainly it is one that assists them to move from the particular to the general, equips them to move from middle-ranking to more senior roles and can help them start their own business venture.

A recently published DTI report "Inspired Leadership" reinforces the need for the modern manager to offer values based leadership style with an increased focus on people rather than on systems and processes.

Yet systems and processes have long been the basis of the MBA syllabus. As a consequence there are not too many MBA programmes that focus on the cultural issue of leadership and the potential MBA student would do well to consider this aspect when choosing their School.

About The Author

Mike Jones
Mike Jones

Mike Jones is the Director of the Foundation for Management Education and a former Director General of the Association of MBAs, the professional organisation for holders of the MBA degree.