Thursday, November 23, 2006

Learning Management

If you have read "Managers not MBA" by Henry Mintzberg, maybe what I'll say makes sense. To be quite frank, I haven't learnt anything about management in the past one-and-half years of MBA courses. I've learnt loads about business, most of them I was unaware of. But, nobody has taught me management itself. Perhaps, what Mintzberg says has some merit. Because most of the faculty in b-schools don't have prior _proper_ work experience ( I don't consider consulting as proper workex), it is interesting to speculate who indeed _can_ teach management. Which also brings me to the question: can it indeed be taught ? and how ?

The faculty and PhD research in b-schools stress on publications, statistical validity and other scientific methods. Well, for all I care, you can throw all that stuff to the bin. All nice theories and all assuming that people are rational. I take real exception at someone calling me rational - I'm only rational in that, I try to rationalise everything that I do !

My b-school has only taught me business. It didn't teach me management - yeah, maybe a bit of time management and self-management. But I understood that the most important of all - managing people cannot be learnt by learning Organizational Behavior or HR. Nothing can prepare me for what I'm going to face in real life.

I'm grateful for my ExtremeBlue summer internship at IBM. I literally learnt management there, and against the right sort of guinea pigs too - tech interns (sorry guys - Karuna, Apoorv, Shekhar ;-). I learnt all the tricks, to cajole, to empathize, to confront, to fight, to argue, to blackmail, to back-out, and when to do what. I learnt to cut through bureaucracy to get the job done. I learnt to push my work, to drive my project despite odds. I learnt that there is a fine line between micro-management on one hand, and hands-off policy on the other. You are given the people who are there, and not who you want. It is like saying "here are these people, it is your business to get the work out of them".

My prior workex did help me in tackling problems. I started with communication and forced my team-mates to communicate with each other. I also had to force the mentors to communicate with each other. I had to take ownership of the project, and then start tackling people to get it done. I made lots of mistakes, but I tried to do a good job. I think I did, hopefully, others think the same too.

Some don't want to get into management - they want to get into business, like investment banking, etc. Probably because, they think they were forced into taking what they didn't either for engineering stream or their job. That's ok, and expected. Others want to get into management, because they want to be bosses. If you are lucky, you won't ever work under them.

I think b-schools shouldn't pretend to teach management - they can't. They are trying, and they are failing. You have to learn that on your own. As my neighbour told me yesterday (he too is an MBA), an MBA only opens the door to the next job, after that, it is how you handle people that takes you anywhere.

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