Friday, February 16, 2007

More MBA Nonsense

This past Monday's Wall Street Journal featured an article entitled, "M.B.A. Programs Hone 'Soft Skills.' Apparently, the new idea is to add 'soft skills' and people focus to the MBA curriculum.

Warren Bennis, professor at Southern Cal's business school, claims that schools are 'responding to employers' growing interest in soft skills. Executive suites are increasingly composed of managers running far-flung operations who must attract and retain knowledgeable workers. That puts a premium on skills such as communicating and brokering compromises.'

Having been to graduate business school, I must say, that's an awfully ambitious agenda for people with, realistically, 18 months of focus, little knowledge of business. In fact, the article goes on to note that the schools "are copying and adapting popular corporate techniques such as coaching, personality assessments and peer feedback."

The worst is that second year students are counseling new first-year students on these topics. And, just what great font of 'soft skill' wisdom would a second-year MBA student have? If I were a student, paying for a two-year MBA education, I'd be livid about this.

Talk about the blind leading the blind. No wonder 'average' business management remains so, well, average, throughout time. I've written elsewhere (December 28th post) in this blog recently about MBA programs churning out decades-worth of mediocre business people. I believe this new trend promises to intensify the mediocre output of MBA programs.

For example, see my recent posts on
auto inventories, or NBC ad sales. We can't even get existing senior managers to use tried and proven management concepts from the 1950s, like 20/80 analysis, let alone sensibly manage inventories to relate to sales and profit volumes.

And now they are teaching 'soft skills' in the same schools that have failed to graduate students who can get the simple, mathematical stuff right? I think, in reality, the so-called 'soft skills' are the product of one's career. You may not be able to teach some of them, and, others, need to be developed in the real world, not in some B-school game environment, or among "peers" whose motivation is to get a job, not teach other students.

How about MBA programs doing more with topics like how to identify, foster and commercialize innovation- the real driver of value-added growth and overall shareholder returns?

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