Why Business Schools Cannot Develop Managers

David Maister posts on the important difference between management skills and business knowledge.

‘Business’ as a subject (and a degree program) is all about things of the logical, rational, analytical mind: Mike Porter’s five forces, the numerous P’s of marketing, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, etc, etc. It’s about knowledge.

Managing, on the other hand, is a skill, and has nothing to do with rationality, logic, IQ or intelligence. It’s a simple issue of whether or not you can influence individuals or organizations to accomplish something. It’s about influencing people, singly or in groups (or in hordes.) No amount of intelligence will help if you are not able to interact with people and get the response you desire….

And of course, this is not accomplished by taking a college course in psychology, sociology, anthropology or any other ‘ology’ where we sit around and intellectualize about ‘human resources’ but never have to actually deal with a real live human being. (It reminds me of the Linda Ronstadt / Dolly Parton / Emmylou Harris song which contains the line – you don’t know what a man is until you have to please one!)

To help people develop as managers doesn’t mean discussing management (or even worse – leadership), but rather requires putting people through a set of processes where they have to experience it, try it out , and develop their emotional self-control and interactive styles.

These observations are important to keep in mind when assessing people for management positions and when charting a professional development program for new managers.