For more than 30 years, Henry Mintzberg has been writing about management and management education with great passion, insight, and influence. His recent book, Managers Not MBAs, presents a stinging critique of business schools, indicting them for focusing on the wrong people--young adults with little experience--and for serving up the wrong fare--too much analysis and technique. (1) Having exposed the problems, Mintzberg presents a fascinating alternative to the MBA that targets practicing managers and uses their real-world experiences as the primary instructional material.
Mintzberg's provocative ideas are aimed at a business audience, but, as the following small sample shows, they have much to offer those preparing educational leaders in the U.S.
The essence of management. "We don't need heroes in positions of influence any more than technocrats. We need balanced, dedicated people who practice a style of managing that can be called 'engaging.' Such people believe that their purpose is to leave behind stronger organizations" (p. 1).
How leadership and management differ. "Leadership is supposed to be something bigger, more important. I reject this distinction, simply because managers have to lead and leaders have to manage. Management without leadership is sterile; leadership without management is disconnected and encourages hubris" (p. 6).
What management is. "Put together a good deal of craft with a certain amount of art and some science, and you end up with a job that is above all a practice. . . . After almost a century of trying, by any reasonable assessment management has become neither a science nor a profession" (pp. 10, 11).
Turning novices into managers. "Trying to teach management to someone who has never managed is like trying to teach psychology to someone who has never met another human being. Organizations are complex phenomena. Managing them is a difficult, nuanced business, requiring all sorts of tacit understanding that can only be gained in context" (p. 9).
What management education needs. "It is not revolution or reorganization we need, at least for starters, so much as reconception . . . we need to rethink who we educate, how, and for what purpose; we need to rethink how and why we do research, and for whom; and we need to rethink how we are organized to do both. And then, if we are honest, we will have no choice but to change" (p. 415).
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Mintzberg about his approach to educating managers and how it could be applied to the preparation of school leaders.
Murphy: What is an engaging style of management?
Mintzberg: I mean that people are involved, they're personally engaged, they're not disconnected. As a result, they are able to engage others.
Murphy: You write that management is a practice. What does that mean?
Mintzberg: It means that it is mainly a craft. It's done on the ground. It means people know what's going on. It's not something you learn in school. You can't create managers in the classroom. You don't have to go to management school to be a manager.
Murphy: If that's the case, what can universities contribute?
Mintzberg: They can bring in people who are already in managerial positions and let them learn from their own experiences and from one another's experiences. …