Business schools today have placed a renewed emphasis on teaching leadership. Dawn Bailey explored this topic in a recent Blogrige post. As Dawn stated, one of the principles behind this shift is to cause a deep dive into values. And values-centered leadership is, in my opinion, a critical attribute of successful leadership. It should be a point of emphasis in business programs at the MBA and bachelor's level.
But if I had my way, beyond leadership every business degree would end with a capstone experience that requires students to pull all their learning together and face the situations they will face in future leadership positions. Leaders are the people who have to understand and lead from the "big picture" understanding, taking everything into account that is important to guiding their organization. In Baldrige terms, we speak of a systems perspective and integration.
A systems perspective is the primary Baldrige core value. It means leading all the components of your organization as a unified whole to achieve your mission, ongoing success, and performance excellence. It requires the realization of your organization as a system with interdependent operations. It recognizes the need to balance the sometimes conflicting desires of different stakeholders. It recognizes that achieving this balance means remaining true to your organizational values and ethical practices.
Integration is the factor that is used in Baldrige scoring (organizational performance maturity measurement) to tie process and results together in an analysis, feedback, and decision-making loop. Integration is the harmonization of plans, processes, information, resource decisions, workforce capability and capacity, actions, results, and analysis to support key organization-wide goals.
As an employer, wouldn't you want all your new employees to appreciate integration and a systems perspective, even if they are not on a leadership track? They would be better prepared to understand complex decisions. They would be better prepared to participate on cross-functional teams. They would be prepared to think beyond their job assignment and technical discipline!
What would this business school capstone experience be? It would be a holistic analysis of an organization's leadership, strategy, operations, and results and a proposal of key actions the organization should take. Of course, my favorite way of doing this analysis would be with the Baldrige Excellence Framework. It could use a case study or, even better, it could involve a guided consulting relationship with a real organization. Do well on the capstone and you are ready to pursue a career in strategic thinking and leadership.
Why is this capstone experience not happening in all business school programs ? It is a tough course to teach ("lead") and a tough course to complete, just as your degree education is coming to a close. I had the interesting experience a few years ago of spending a day with a senior professor at one of the top U.S. business schools talking to the faculty about instituting such a capstone course. The visit was an eye-opener for me. The faculty was not in favor of the proposal. There were two main objections: 1. the assertion that students came to this school because it was renowned for its training in one business discipline and that is what the students wanted, and 2. it did not further the research or tenure attainment of faculty, whose kudos were tied to their business discipline.
By now you realize I feel very committed to this capstone experience. It is why I enjoy teaching a graduate course on leadership, strategy, and organizational analysis that involves an engagement with a real client organization. This blog post/editorial has been rumbling around inside of me for many years. Thanks to Dawn for giving me the impetus to get it out!
I would like to hear about your experiences in your education and in the real world after getting an MBA (or similar) degree!