Henry Mintzberg revisits some of his research and conclusions about the methods used to teach MBAs at Harvard, and his conclusions point to the near complete saturation of analysis and control that now drowns the business, government and non-profit world:
When I studied management across the river in the 1960s, at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Harvard Business School was just as renowned as it is today. But it was weak in research—in fact some of its prominent faculty derided research. The turnaround since then has been quite remarkable. In the areas I know, Harvard’s faculty is fantastic, especially in the ability of many to relate concrete issues to conceptual understanding. Too bad that they have to devote so much of their teaching efforts to a method—and its view of management, like that of other business schools so concentrated on analysis–that is doing such great harm to our organizations and the societies in which they function (see mintzberg.org/enterprise).
We are mired in a heroic view of management (now called leadership)–centralized, numeric, individualistic and often narcissistic–that is too often detached from what is supposed to be managed. People who believe they can manage everything often prove themselves capable of managing nothing. We don’t need generic managers; we need engaged ones. The problem has been bad enough in the private sector; its infiltration into other sectors of society is far worse. Do NGOs need “CEOs”, business models, strategic plans, measures galore, and all the rest? Harvard and most other business schools have to be doing better than that.
What happens at places like Harvard matters, because it sets the standard for what passes as responsible management in organizations. And there are many fatal flaws with the way Harvard teaches business, and those are magnified and distorted in the hands of the amateur quant jockeys that reduce everything to numeric analysis. This is the finest and most concise articulation of this problem I have read in a while and it matters that it is Henry Mintzberg who is saying it.