Monday, May 21, 2007


Managers Not MBAs by Henry Mintzberg is an intriguing book not only because it offers insight into the flimsiness of MBA programs, but also because I think it is applicable to the information profession and offers something which MLIS programs can learn from. Although they may appear to be quite different disciplines, I see a lot of connections between these two programs. Why? While MLIS produces managers who run libraries and information services MBA graduates go onto higher management positions.

In fact, librarians often have a more difficult job because they not only learn about the profession while in library school, but must also learn how to manage, often right out of school and into their first day on the job.

1. Science vs. Profession - There are two schools of thought in the history of MBA education. The Carnegie school believes in business as a science; hence the curriculum is very much lecture-based. The Harvard school believes business is a profession; hence, its curriculum is case studies-based. But there is little emphasis on actual management, which is ironic because the very skills needed in graduates of the program once they are hired and assigned senior managerial positions, don't have the requisite skills. In MLIS programs, there appears to be two schools of thought, too: (1) The I-School approach; and (2) the "traditional" library school. But what appears to be neglected is solid management skills on project management and leadership courses.

2. Experience vs. Education - MBA programs attract the best and brightest - but often the youngest and inexperienced. There is a huge disjunct between passion and ambition, with the latter being the more dominant of the two. Instead of admitting seasoned veterans who have managerial experience, MBA programs are often comprised of students with either only a year or two of "work experience" or straight out of undergraduate studies. Hence, MBA programs are not training managers like they're supposed to, but instead are giving ambitious individuals credentials to bypass the corporate ladder, and jump straight into influential positions. The MLIS appears to offer a similar ticket for those who want to move up, but not necessarily move in.

3. Integration vs. Specialization - MBA schools don't produce graduates with the skills to be managers because they force specialization rather than integration. Disastrously, specialization does not a good manager make, because it merely produces individuals with narrow skills and knowledge whereas managers need to be able to selectively adapt from a wide array of tools for different situations. In other words, while managers need to see the "big picture," MBA programs only pushes particular concepts, ideas, and rules on them and lets the individual to sink or swim after he or she graduates. MLIS pushes various combinations of "core" courses from cataloguing and reference without and leaves it at that.

4. MB/A vs. ML/IS - It appears these programs are comprised of two different intentions. While MBA programs are structured around "business" and "administration," where on one side is B: specialization in the business functions mostly for people with little experience, and on the other side is A: administration and management: programs designed to educate the experienced, and so adopting a wholly different approach. Similarly, MLIS programs are of "librarianship" and "information science." In essence, faculty is split among these two streams and often, the product is disintegrated and inconsistent.

5. Fast-track vs. Professional Will - What the MBA has produced is a culture of elitism, where one realizes that the MBA is not an education, but rather a fast-track up the corporate ladder. Whereas experienced and dedicated individuals languish in their positions because of their lack of credentials, MBA graduates freely jump from one industry to the other, and into positions without much knowledge of the industry other than the soft introductions from their MBA courses (or none at all). What this has created is a culture of "elitism." Managers at the top of the pyramid often lose sight of lower echelons when in fact they need to be seeing the whole pyramid. Mintzberg interestingly proposes an equation for explanation: Confidence - Competence = Arrogance

6. Best Bang for the Buck - With the high cost of education, applicants want to maximize on their education. Hence, the most popular programs are those of the shortest length (12 months) but offers the same degree as those with lengthier schedules. In a way, isn't this the same with MLIS programs? In terms of breadth, does this really shortchange students? Or perhaps the question should be, why the disparity?

1 comment:

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