Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Obsolete Manager

How obsolete are we ? If I were to judge myself, pretty obsolete.

This week I am posting on Education, as the theme. Starting with an outrageous statement - the manager is obsolete the minute he steps out of business school (or whatever school) and then it is a long road to utter obsolescence until he retires.

Management science is a pretty dynamic science. The body of knowledge is expanding at a terrific pace and we rarely keep up with it. Company training programmes are meant to missed, citing "extremely busy" as an excuse. How many times have we gone back to university to relearn or do a refresher programme - none , unless your company has sponsored you for one of the Advanced Management Programs (note to my company - are you listening ? Harvard would be nice !)

Take for example the field of finance and accounting. A few years ago, in my company, we played a game - Who wants to be a Millionaire (or Kaun Banega Crorepati to my Indian friends) on basic IFRS principles. We played this amongst the top accountants in the company from many countries. Not one guy won any money. Everybody flunked. We were that ignorant.

Try this in your company. Walk up to your CFO . Do it for a dare. Ask him to price a plain vanilla option, on anything - say your home currency against the US$. Watch him wriggle and squirm.

Experience is a great teacher ; no doubt. But mere experience is not enough. "Back to school", say every 10 years, is a great way of getting abreast and relearning everything we have forgotten.

And reading. Reading a lot. Airport business books don't count. Real stuff. How many of us managers, have read an issue of the Harvard Business Review during the last one year ?

So my recipe to guard against obsolescence (which I haven't thus far practiced, except for the last one), is
- Go and do a formal course in a B-school every 7 or 8 years
- Read the leading business journals of the world (Financial Times and Wall Street Journal don't count)
- Lecture occasionally at Universities.
- Write a business blog ! In order to write sensibly, you have to read something, right ?

I speculated on what grades I would get if I went back to Business School and wrote the exam now. Here's my candid assessment

Business Strategy - A
Quantitative Methods - F
Finance - F
Accounting - C
Marketing - C
Operations Management - F
Economics - F