The Value of an MBA in a Post-Recession World

By Emad Rahim, D.M., PMP, CTU Faculty, Business and Management and Dr. Darrell N. Burrell, Program Manager and Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

CTU Master of Business Administration - What is the value of an MBA?In light of the international financial challenges in the auto, banking, insurance, mortgage and real estate industries, not to mention the international corporate scandals like those of Enron, AIG and Bear Stearns, criticism is growing over the value of the MBA for developing effective business leaders who are ethical, professional and respectful of their employees and communities. After all, if the definition of management is getting work done through staff or human resources, why are so many MBA programs focused on teaching technical skills like finance, accounting and operations as opposed to courses on staff development?

Where MBAs Went Wrong

According to Peter Navarro’s 2008 book on the subject, current MBA courses and programs are missing the mark in five key areas:

  1. MBA programs should take a multidisciplinary approach to teaching leadership development and problem solving by including areas like sociology, psychology, human relations, communication, cultural studies and diversity studies.
  2. Business programs should prepare students for the challenges of the real world by combining theory with real-world application through experiential learning.
  3. As new technology develops, and business influences become more global, business schools should focus on building global leaders by teaching adaptability, communication, innovation, collaboration and organizational-development skills.
  4. As the world becomes flatter, MBA programs should focus on valuing diversity, cultural competence and international business.
  5. In the wake of major corporate scandals and collapses, ethics, sustainability and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) should provide a context that is woven throughout all courses of an MBA program.

Shifting Strategies

According to Warren G. Bennis and James O’Toole in their 2005 “Harvard Business Review” article, the MBA degree is no longer useful in today’s market because the programs lack creativity, design and innovation in their curriculum and teachers. Adapting to the strategic leadership skills necessary for today’s businesses and practitioners, many MBA degree programs should instead be driven by real-world case studies and applied research in university programs like the working executive programs offered by Colorado Technical University, Green Mountain College and Norwich University. Students entering these programs participate in practical, case-study driven courses that require them to practice making tough leadership decisions that influence people, organizational longevity and growth. 

From the Front Lines

We studied a focus group consisting of 24 management professionals who used their in-depth understanding of today’s business world, plus their own extensive and firsthand experience working in that environment, to identify a potential list of course topics that could be beneficially incorporated into modern MBA programs. Focus-group participants were selected at random and represented six different business organizations.
Participants were asked to respond to the following question: Based on your leadership experience and the challenges facing managers in 2013, which skill-development courses do you feel would help MBA students cultivate the necessary leadership, decision-making and management skills?

The answers were telling. Here, in order from most to least important, are their responses:

  1. Career Planning and Development: One participant made the point that having a career plan and strategic career goals were the biggest driving forces behind career mobility and development. The participants also agreed that a sound grasp of career development and planning skills on the part of executives would make them better mentors.
  2. Employee-Performance Management and Coaching: Participants said that one of the hardest things is learning how to effectively manage and motivate poorly performing employees. The other essential aspect of coaching is having an ability to help an employee who has raw talent develop into a star performer.
  3. Critical Thinking and Decision-Making Skills: Today’s managers must routinely make difficult decisions and subsequently develop creative and effective solutions that account for complex variables and consequences.
  4. Understanding Organizational Politics and Culture: Making the right kind of relationships can make or break a career, just as not knowing the politics of an organizational culture can damage it.
  5. Managing and Valuing Diversity: Effective leadership requires the kind of skills that can develop diverse teams and get them to work successfully together.

The focus-group results heavily emphasized the importance of leadership-development training as well as communication and relationship building skills. The insights of the participants offer an interesting framework of the kind of leadership training that is needed now and will be required of future business leaders.

CTU Faculty - Emad RahimEmad Rahim, D.M., PMP, CTU Faculty, Business and Management, is a PMI Certified Project Management Professional®. Dr. Rahim has more than 10 years of experience in business development, entrepreneurship, nonprofit administration, management consulting and project management. He earned a Post-Doctorate Diploma in Marketing from Tulane University, a DM in Organizational Development, an MSM in Project Management, and an MSM in Business Management from CTU. Connect with him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim.

CTU Business Advisory Board Member Dr. Darrell BurrellDr. Burrell currently serves as a Program Chair at Florida Institute of Technology. Prior to his academic appointment, he worked for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and was a recipient of the Presidential Management Fellowship.

Main Image Credit: Flickr/Ben Schumin