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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Future of Executive Education


A lot has happened since Fredrick Winslow Taylor stated in his monograph The Principle of Scientific Management , “the principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employee”. For one, we have had two world wars, which essentially polarized the world into the divergent East-West dichotomy during which millions died protecting either viewpoint.

Capitalism is no longer what it used to be in the days of Andrew Carnegie. It softened, gained integrity and its pure state became offensive.  More so, corporate leaders nowadays defend and agitate for green initiatives despite the fact that they rarely have a foreseeable return on investment.  

While Taylorism failed when it was tried and tested in various companies, in the early 20th Century, due to its utopian expectations, it successfully became the precursor to a universe of current management theories whose epicenter is powered by the need to increase efficiency, reduce wastage and get more out of less.

Current management theories are no longer allowed to be theoretical, and have been pressured to empower businesses tackle 21st century business challenges.
From competitive pressures, to corporate governance concerns that stem from closer government scrutiny a clear leadership vacuum has arisen. Not because of lack of trying but because change has become fundamental to how we live in this new century.  Truth be told, change doesn't come naturally to humanity.

Executive Education is a vehicle that has essentially been used over the last half century, to articulate management theories to business executives. With the changes in the business environment, executive education has been seen to stumble along, and tried different approaches to remain relevant. While some programs by some acclaimed universities have discovered the true need of their clientele and are offering customized, highly specific programs that are strategic, collaborative and long-term in nature, we still find other executive programs that are driven by a one-size fits-all approach, not realizing that companies can really benefit from the research-based academically rigorous knowledge-building approach of universities in solving business challenges and concerns.

The reality is business leaders are expected to have relevant awareness and understanding on how to tackle the complexity of their businesses today. They need tools to empower them to systematically lead and deliver tangible business results.  

The executive education program of the future will be expected to be rooted in the very fabric of the businesses of the people it trains. It will be expected to be a consulting entity, in that it will go to the root cause of issues in the business, research on it collaboratively, and give recommendations that are implementable and measurable, then empower the business through awareness and rigorous training, that is practical and action based which will allow the participants to immediately apply what they have learned to real business problems.

And remember this has to be done in such a manner that reduces the cycle between one starting a program and one implementing the practical tools bestowed upon the participants. 

The programs have to allow people from across the world with different backgrounds to interact in order to enrich the educational experience.
This calls for better use of the Internet and cutting edge collaborative tools to enhance the learning experience.

For East Africa to move ahead, there is no doubt that universities have to step out of their comfort zone. They are called upon to be the drivers of research in commerce. Not to ape and regurgitate but to give solutions that will see African companies expand and compete with the multinationals of this world.

It’s my hope that in the near future we will have research centers in East Africa that easily rival the Harvards, INSEADs and Whartons of this world, that are driven to bring change, push for change and implement relevant change in business. 

I would like to see them embrace technology in such a way as to allow for better collaboration between companies in different countries through cost efficient participation in the learning process.

A time will eventually come when the world will look at the management theories developed in East Africa and aspire to adopt them. 


Published by Management Magazine

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