Improving management education

Publication Date01 Oct 2006
AuthorM.L. Emiliani
Improving management
M.L. Emiliani
Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA
Purpose To present an outsider’s view of how management education can be significantly
Design/methodology/approach – Focuses on correcting several obvious deficiencies in courses
and degree programs to create highly differentiated educational experiences that are more relevant to
student’s needs and the organizations that employ graduates.
Findings Proposes a suite of 11 interconnected improvements as well as a fundamental
re-structuring of the MBA program designed to simplify it, provide greater focus, improve relevancy,
and impart needed thematic consistency.
Practical implications – Presents 11 practical improvements individual faculty or schools can
readily incorporate into existing courses or degree programs. The proposed curriculum for a
completely re-structured MBA program can add distinctiveness and expand the value proposition for
students and their employers.
Originality/value – The suite of 11 improvements and proposed MBA program curriculum changes
offers an alternate route for preparing students for future global business challenges. The proposed
improvements are intended to serve as a foundation for discussion and debate, and hopefully future
action as well.
Keywords Curriculum development, Master of businessadministration, Management development
Paper type Case study
Recent studies questioning the relevance of management research and education in the
USA and their role in the many recent corporate scandals clearly indicate a strong need
for improvement (AACSB, 2002; Donaldson, 2002; Etzioni, 2002; Mangan, 2002;
Mintzberg et al., 2002; Pfeffer and Fong, 2002; Ghoshal, 2003, 2005; Emiliani, 2004a;
Bennis and O’Toole, 2005; Ferraro et al., 2005; Holstein, 2005; Tsurumi, 2005). However,
the solutions proposed by most academics and management practitioners are
predictable (Andrews and Tyson, 2004; AACSB, 2004; Kochan, 2002): nothing radical,
just a few small changes that would have minimal impact among faculty, students, and
businesses. Common examples include: adding a course in business ethics; greater
emphasis on communication; interpersonal skills and teamwork; industry-specific
specializations; team teaching; or re-packaging existing knowledge into programs with
glamorous-sounding new names (Bisoux, 2005; Garten, 2005; Gloeckler, 2005).
This outcome should not be surprising because it is common for insiders to have a
narrow view of opportunities and consider small changes as acceptable evidence of
improvement. These solutions do not address the root cause of the problem, the need
for more substantive re-structuring of management curricula, or even the fundamental
premises on which modern management education is founded. In my view,
management education is in critical condition, and the solutions offered to-date are
grossly insufficient and will not yield better educated students. So ho w would an
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Quality Assurance in Education
Vol. 14 No. 4, 2006
pp. 363-384
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/09684880610703956
outsider – someone not saturated in conventional thinking about management
education – see things? With this in mind, I offer my thoughts on how to improve
management education, particularly graduate degree programs.
I am an outsider to the world of business school education. My undergraduate,
master’s, and PhD degrees are engineering, and I have 15 years of industrial
management experience in three disciplines: engineering, manufacturing, and supply
chain management. One of the things I learned while in industry was the practice of
kaizen, a structured process for continuous improvement (Imai, 1986, 1997; Emiliani,
2000a). Kaizen teams consist of people that know the business process under scrutiny,
as well as others that do not. Invariably, the people who are not familiar with the
process offer some of the best new insights for improvement because they are not
bound by convention. So please think of me simply as a kaizen team member from a
different school.
After teaching for six years in a management school and having nearly 30
peer-reviewed papers published in management journals, my general impression of
management education is that it lacks intellectual rigor compared to what I
experienced in my engineering education. While engineering education is also in need
of improvement, particularly with regards to human factors such as organizational
behavior, leadership, and supply chain, it does offer some useful ideas for improv ing
management education. I found that most management faculty had a remarkably poor
understanding of obvious and not-so-obvious cause-effect relationships. Also notably
lacking was an appropriate balance of quantitative and non-quantitative data analysis
which would help students make better business decisions. Our management faculty
was not unique with regards to these shortcomings, as evidenced by the relevancy
issues that management education, textbooks, and academic journal publications face
(London and Bradshaw, 2005), as well as the many bad real-world business outcomes
that we have all witnessed in recent times (SEC, 2005).
This paper identifies and discusses 11 important deficiencies, which if addressed
would greatly improve undergraduate and graduate management education. Please
note that these areas for improvement are specific and can be acted upon by faculty,
either individually or as a group. They are not marketing gimmicks, nor are they
abstract notions that lack a clear path for incorporation into curricula. I mportantly,
they are also responsive to the current and future needs of manufacturing and service
businesses, as well as non-profit and government organizations.
What follows is not intended to be a comprehensive prescription for improving
management education in the USA. Nor is it intended to suggest that management
education is solely responsible for every problem faced by businesses. Rather, it should
serve a simpler purpose: that of a general blueprint which management educators can
use to begin to make meaningful improvements and perhaps also create competitive
advantage. Also, while the items may appear to readers as a list, I present them as a
network of interconnected improvements that should not be separated. Cherry-picking
a few items that faculty judge to be most important will do little to significantly
improve management education and business decisions made by future managers.
Corporate purpose
Often, much time is spent in the classroom discussing what seems to be a very
important question: Why do corporations exist? Is it to create shareholder value, or is it

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