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Guys, I'd like to hear a podcast with your opinions on how important an MBA is in the life of a manager as you move up the food chain. Everything I've read and heard from others, including MBA grads, is that they really don't provide you with practical tools to be a better manager. I can see some benefit in learning the theory related to strategy, finance and other disciplines but does it really make a difference to a career? Seems to me like the world is crying out for better managers not more MBA grads. Love to hear your thoughts on this in a podcast.

Mark's picture

Neither of us is an MBA.

Some could benefit, some not. We're trying hard how to be helpful here, and will figure it out.

Mark

regas14's picture

From my perspective (a young, fairly inexperienced MBA) I would say that there are a great many ways to acquire the knowledge, skills and behavioral habits that are essential to success. There is no one method which will result in a well-rounded individual capable of many things on many levels. An MBA is not the end-all, be-all of development. For some people it may be one aspect of a well-rounded development plan.

When I hear people talk about MBAs, many of them think of it as a key to the C-level suite of offices. It is not. In my life it accomplished three very critical things:

1) Forced me to examine issues from a functionally more well-rounded perspective. Despite all of the hyperbole, many organizations are siloed and one's functional role is narrow in perspective. The MBA process, at least the program I participated in, emphasized the whole of the organization.

2) It developed in me confidence in my critical thinking/analysis abilities. Having the opportunity, over the course of a period of time to have your thought process critiqued, refined and adjusted helped me learn both how to analyze business situations critically and how to seek/value the input and analysis of others.

3) It turned me into a sponge for personal and professional development. I enjoyed school all my life, but I found the education process of an MBA to be much different. The process very clearly connects your input of effort to your output of development/education.

I am a proponent of Executive/General Management MBAs over functional MBAs generally speaking. If you'd like to talk with me more about it, send me an IM and I'd be glad to share my experiences a bit more candidly. Just send me a personal message with your e-mail address.

stuartw's picture

Regas14 -

Thanks for your comments especially the 3 major impacts it had on you. I'd hadn't really considered these benefits before and its certainly got me thinking. I always thought it was more about adding the word 'MBA' to your resume. Maybe I will reconsider........

Thanks,

Stuart

US41's picture

[quote="stuartw"]Guys, I'd like to hear a podcast with your opinions on how important an MBA is in the life of a manager as you move up the food chain. Everything I've read and heard from others, including MBA grads, is that they really don't provide you with practical tools to be a better manager.[/quote]

I am an MBA. I graduated in 2000. The company I worked for at the time gave me a 20% pay increase upon my graduation. It paid for itself in three years.

MBA training had some benefits for me in my opinion:

* Better understanding of economic both in price setting and in macroeconomic conditions and understanding of financial info in Wall Street Journal

* Ability to read financial statements quickly and interpret them

* Change of perspective and attitude from blue collar "Why is my company so stupid?" to white collar "They are obviously doing that for this reason..."

* Better understanding of various functions of corporate divisions: marketing, operations, finance, accounting, IT

* Formal training in project management principles

* Very good background in business strategy and analysis tools

However, as MT shows, MBA programs focus on operations, finance, and strategy. Any attempt they make at teaching people management is absurdly ineffective, sketchy, and highly theoretical (useless).

I've learned more about people management and how to actually succeed and market myself here than in all the five years of school I had at the university busting my butt.

They don't teach MBAs to shine their shoes. And where I work, we MBAs are pretty notorious for reaching the first level of management and then hitting our peter principle really quickly. MBAs are trained to be senior executives, not line managers.

Maybe that is the problem. Training boot camp recruits to be generals, but not how to be good lieutenants and captains creates a pool of people who are ill-equipped to actually ever make it high enough up the ladder to become generals.

escuccim's picture

[quote="US41"]I am an MBA. I graduated in 2000. The company I worked for at the time gave me a 20% pay increase upon my graduation. It paid for itself in three years. [/quote]

I am also an MBA. I got my MBA in 2003 after going to school at night and on weekends for 4 years. I did not get a pay raise or any other job offers and my day to day job functions did not change at all. My MBA is a general degree - not specific to any particular field or subject.

Not a single top executive at my current employer has an MBA or any advanced degree at all.

If I could do it again I would still do the MBA. I learned a lot and I find it does help me a lot at my job now. I can speak with anyone here and understand what they are talking about. I find this especially useful when dealing with the finance but it also helps with other things.

I agree that an MBA does not really train you for a low level management job. My program taught stuff you'd need to run a company, or be a general as was mentioned. I didn't learn much useful for actually managing people which is my job now.

When I read the statistics about MBAs and who is hiring them I don't see any of that in my life. Most of the big MBA-hiring companies will only hire people straight out of school directly into one of their training programs.

So I would say if you want to do it for your own benefit you should. It's very interesting and very helpful for some things. If you are doing it expecting a pay raise, a better job or you plan to be a low or middle level manager I would think carefully before doing it.

mpolino's picture

I have an MBA and when I've joked about Manager Tools removing my need for an MBA, what I really wanted was an MBA that included all the Manager Tools stuff too.

My situation is a little different. My degree is in Accounting and FL requires and extra year of post grad work to sit for the CPA exam. If I didn't chase a second degree, I felt like I wasn't getting my money's worth out of that extra year. Consequently, I got an MBA at night in 2.5 yrs from a small school with a great reputation in Southeastern US. Then I added the CPA too.

I have no regrets about getting an MBA. A CPA designation says "I understand Accounting" but the added MBA says "I understand business, not just accounting". Not to mention that in a post Enron world, accountants better understand their impact on business.

I think the other thing is that we need all the advantages we can get. We all know that the hiring process is screwed up. With Manager Tools we get those extra pointers to let us add a few points to our side. But I want all the points on my side when I interview for a job. If I'm up against another MBA, Manager Tools gives me the edge from the resume' to the offer. If I'm up against a non-MBA, then I have Manager Tools and education. The other candidate doesn't have chance, especially after I ask for the job!

An MBA is still not for everyone. It depends on what you're trying to do. My wife runs a successful title company without a college degree. An MBA does however add leverage. It makes it harder for people to talk down to you, nobody can say that you don't have the qualifications for that next level and it can make a difference getting the job.

Mark Polino

ThomasH's picture

It is hard to get a good unbiased answer to the question of the value of an MBA. Anyone who has done one is likely to want to justfy their expenditure of time and money, and anyone who hasn't done one can only make observations about the behaviour of MBA's they have observed.

I'm 2/3 of the way through an MBA (posting ths during my Organisational Behaviour lecture, actually!). I think the points made above are all really good. What I have gotten from my MBA is a mix of technical skills (such as accounting, business law, statisitcal analysis etc), conceptual frameworks for analysis of strategic and general management issues, and enhanced critical reasoning skills.

I personally don't think an MBA should teach the sort of things that Manager Tools does, and Manager Tools is definitely not a replacement for an MBA. Manager Tools is more like vocational training, and ideally is the sort of thing that should be taught within organisations, passed down from a manager to their direct reports. Given that this does not happen in practice I am very happy that Manager Tools exists, and agree that an MBA plus Manager Tools is a winning combination.

Now, back to my lecture....

poncho_57's picture

-MBA or not-

I posted on this topic.

Apologies for posting before checking this string.

My situation and question for the forum is under the topic

"To MBA or not to MBA"

I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.

I guess I'll take a look at my posting practices.

Again, apologies for the redundancy,
- poncho_57

bflynn's picture

MBA or not - I think everyone would agree that it isn't necessary, but it can be a big help. The business degree is two things - 1) an education about the world of business. 2) a recruiting tool to get into some great jobs. It is possible to do either without the MBA. But (given the right school), it is much easier to do it with.

Education wise, you could learn in school or on the job. OTJ, your education will be deep and narrow. In school, you'll be shallow and wide. Over time, the two will converge, so by the time you're at the top, it shouldn't matter much...unless you're a CEO without an accounting education who is accused of twidling with option dates.

One other thing about the business education - it is technical in nature. I believe that business schools have not figured out how to teach management - they'd like to and most are trying, but they haven't nailed it down. They do not produce managers, they produce business technicians. Business is about knowledge plus practice. Schools teach the knowledge, but don't know how to teach about people.

As a recruiting channel, the MBA can be a big help if your in one of the top 10 (maybe top 25) schools. Go full time, get a good internship and you can land at some great places. Change any of that and it significantly impairs the value of the recruiting chain.

Hope this helps

Brian

pneuhardt's picture

I am not an MBA (nor do I play one on TV), but I have worked with many over the years. Here are are few thoughts based on my own observations/biases:

- The process of acquiring an MBA is like any other educational process in that you get out of it what you put in to it. It depends on the person, not the degree.

- Some people annex an MBA because they want to learn advanced material and use their new knowledge in their careers. Some people go through the process of getting a piece of paper to get more money and a bigger office. It's pretty easy to spot the difference.

- I have never enjoyed working in an organization that valued an MBA as a piece of paper (i.e. you get more money or a higher position just for having one). I have very much enjoyed working in organizations that value results and ideas and where people with MBA's have climbed further and faster based on their improved skills and sharpened analytic thinking.

- As others have said here, education and experience are not at all the same thing. An MBA is education. The people that I have observed who make the most effective use of their MBA understand that.

- There is nothing learned in any MBA program I have ever heard of that can't be learned outside of school. But an MBA program is a much faster and more organized way of learning it. If you are one of those people that got your degree to prosper and not just to profit, it can be a huge competitive advantage.

mauzenne's picture

[quote="bflynn"]One other thing about the business education - it is technical in nature. I believe that business schools have not figured out how to teach management - they'd like to and most are trying, but they haven't nailed it down. They do not produce managers, they produce business technicians. Business is about knowledge plus practice. Schools teach the knowledge, but don't know how to teach about people.[/quote]

MBA schools [b]can't[/b] teach leadership -- leadership isn't [i]taught [/i]in school, it's learned by [i]practicing [/i]it in the real world (see Mark's excellent post on the topic here: http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/02/developing-leaders-is-simple/). And facilitating the practice of effective management has always been our goal -- come to Manager Tools, learn from others, go try it, evaluate your performance, come back and share/learn some more.

Mike

trandell's picture

[quote="mauzenne"]leadership isn't [i]taught [/i]in school, it's learned by [i]practicing [/i]it in the real world[/quote]

AMEN to that! I learned very early and very quickly that management and leadership are not the same thing and they are best learned by example and perfected through practice, practice, practice.

bflynn's picture

[quote="mauzenne"]
MBA schools [b]can't[/b] teach leadership -- leadership isn't [i]taught [/i]in school, it's learned by [i]practicing [/i]it in the real world (see Mark's excellent post on the topic here: http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/02/developing-leaders-is-simple/). And facilitating the practice of effective management has always been our goal -- come to Manager Tools, learn from others, go try it, evaluate your performance, come back and share/learn some more.

Mike[/quote]

I think we're almost saying the same thing. What most business schools do today doesn't work for someone interested in learning leadership, nor management. They can make someone a technician. It takes actual practice to make them a manager. The skill sets are different.

I believe it should be possible for business schools to create real-world experiences for their students. I don't believe the schools know yet how to do that, but I believe some of them are moving in the right direction and they will eventually figure it out. It will almost certainly involve collaboration with the business community. I'll be interested to see where it goes.

Brian

jeffh's picture

[quote="mauzenne"]

MBA schools [b]can't[/b] teach leadership -- leadership isn't [i]taught [/i]in school, it's learned by [i]practicing [/i]it in the real world...[/quote]

I agree with that completely. One of the best things I got out of my MBA was an unexpected understanding of what leadership is, and how it contrasts with 'managership'. I say unexpected because I had no idea just how wrong I had been in my views of leadership. I was finally able to understand why some managers inspired me to accomplish more, while others inspired me to do much more CYA garbage.

BTW: I see the MT curriculum as a practical way to develop leadership skills and apply them to business management.

Life is good!
Jeff

ccleveland's picture

This may be a little overly philosophical...

Schools [u]can[/u] show students the path to knowledge (such as leadership)... it's up to each student to follow it.

Some can find the path on their own. Some need to be shown the path and can then achieve. And some do not to learn, even when they’ve been shown the path. "You can lead a student to knowledge, but you can't make them think." (Heinlein)

As a recent MBA graduate (2006), I can map each and every class to some improvement of how I work. I've also learned many things that I hope to use even more as my effectiveness and influence grows. Yes, I could have learned [u]most[/u] of this without the "MBA" on my resume; however, it sure helped speed up the process.

One final benefit I didn't see mentioned: MBA helps expand your "network". The value of this depends greatly on the school and teaching methods; however, if one begins their MBA with this in mind, they can network with a large number of people from a large number of companies in a large number of fields. It can only help open up opportunities for yourself and others in your network.

CC

P.S. Of course…it remains to be seen if my response is the same in 5-10 years! :)

asteriskrntt1's picture

I agree with CCleveland

I have gone to school with MBAs from all over the world and then worked with many of them. There is the odd MBA genius in every school but most of us take the same cases from too many profs who don't have real world experience.

What you really develop if you are lucky is access to a network and a brand to help market yourself. If you come from a small school and no one recruits there and you don't get exposure to consumer goods or IT when you graduate, it is going to be a tough haul. And if you have a weak alumni association, it will be harder for you to relocate and find inroads into those hidden job markets.

Once you are in the position, most likely, you will perform well. Your school choice and location will play a huge part in what opportunities are coming your way.

Just my 2 cents

*RNTT

fab5freddy's picture

From people I know who have done it, and someone thinking about doing one myself

It's all about the meeting people. This can be achieved in other ways, sure, but an MBA is a great way to do this...