Problem: For years, management education has been a "regression to the mean", or middle-of-the-road, process.
You take average professionals, teach them average ways of doing and like (like benchmarking) and you make that the way you identify, develop and promote your "top" (read average) performers into management positions.
An MBA degree is a perfect example of this "regression to the mean."
You take in a bunch of students who are of high intelligence. Then you rank their aptitudes from high to low. You draw a line in the middle. Then you set your curriculum based on the "mean" or middle-of-the-road.
And how do MBA programs control and drive this process?
They make their students work in groups with little or no training in group learning processes, then work them to the bone so that there is no time to do great learning work.
This is what I call teaching by abdication – one of the cruelest forms of the "sink or swim" philosophy in business education today.
Plus students are driven to simply move from one project to the next, just to get them done so they can move on to the next one.
There is little consideration of:
- What went well?
- What needs improvement?
- What did I / we learn that we can use in our next project?
By the end of the 2-3 years the students are so exhausted, they've become brain-dead.
Trust me on this, I was enrolled in an EMBA program. I quit six months in after realizing what the heck was really going on.
The graduate MBA's are flushed out into the corporate world to continue to drive to the "regression to the mean."
If you look at just about every executive development program, the process is the same – full-on structured classrooms morning, afternoon and night, project, project, project filled in between with lectures.
And companies wonder why they are not as profitable as they need to be!
Google has recently discovered what's going on and what to do about it.
They initiated a management effectiveness project, code-named Project Oxygen.
The purpose of Project Oxygen was to find out what Google needed to do to build better bosses. (I think they missed the boat a bit and could have ramped up their findings by finding what they needed to do to build better followers too.)
They collected data – as only Google can – over a two-year period.
They analyzed performance reviews, feedback surveys and nominations for top-manager awards.
They correlated phrases, words, praise and complaints attributed to managers.
They came up with the "Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers" :
1. Be a good coach by staying connected and giving and receiving feedback.
2. Empower the team you are managing.
3. Teach and show people how to improve their performance.
4. Show real interest in team members' successes and personal well-being.
5. Be pro-active: teach people how to be productive and results-focused.
5. Be an effective communicator – stop, look and listen.
6. Coach and mentor employees with their career development.
7. Develop and communicate a clear vision and a strategy for implementing the vision with your team.
8. Yes, do continue to develop key technical skills so you can give useful advice to your team. And learn to accept that the technical is secondary to the other seven habits.
It is good to see that Google, a wild successful company which has revised the philosophy of "regression to the mean" in just about every realm, has now arrived at the significance of "soft-skills" by analyzing the "hard-data, "so people can rise above the mean and do great work.