Let’s get back to business (school)!

January 28, 2022

By Prof. S. Veena Iyer

In organisations, talent management discussions involve evaluating the performance and potential of employees. The 9-box grid is a popularly used tool to visually map the performance-potential mix and base decisions like promotions and plan other interventions like personal development, roles, compensation, etc., based on the individual’s positioning on the grid. While performance has been relatively easy to measure based on outcomes against goals, measuring potential has always been nebulous and a struggle for organisations. Models to assess potential look for differentiators to identify high potential. These include character traits like learning agility, people agility, action orientation and team building capability, to name a few.

Of these factors, learning agility - the ability to learn something and apply it in different contexts - is in the individual’s control that can help them differentiate as they move up the corporate ladder. Learning through experiences and conversations with leaders can bring about self-awareness especially as contexts and situations change. Another popular route for leadership development is seeking mentoring and coaching. Last but not the least, continuous reading broadens one’s horizons like none other. Executive management education fits in perfectly here.

Education is impactful if it enhances curiosity about the world around us and helps build a worldview. While evaluating potential leaders in organisations, phrases often used to differentiate high potential employees include drive, curiosity, collaboration, cross-functional understanding, ability to connect the dots, etc.  Experience alone is not enough to develop these competencies. Active investment in the individual’s capabilities and skill-sets is required.

Management education fulfils this important need and helps participants process the world around them in an organisation from different lenses of the subjects they study. Executive management education makes this one step better! It is fascinating for participants to reflect on their organisational experiences thus far, weave them with the concepts and frameworks that are discussed in the classroom to eventually see new meaning and insight around these experiences. The VUCA world that organisations today operate in, requires individuals to understand the nature of the organisation’s response to the myriad challenges posed by the environment. Executive management education provides a wonderful platform to reflect and analyse the organisation’s choices and respond to the environment and most importantly, participants’ own choices and responses in different situations. This translation of increased intellect into understanding choices and decisions that they have to make in their roles as they move up the corporate ladder, is a significant differentiator for individuals compared to their peer group.

Executive management education is an ideal choice for professionals looking to broaden their career choices and move into administration and management. While engineers opting for business education is very common, increasingly professionals like lawyers and doctors are seeking to equip themselves with management skills and orientation. This helps them broaden their perspective within their chosen field and seek other career options. And of course, this route is much sought after by those planning to venture out on their own and even those coming from business families.

India has many business schools and universities offering Executive MBA and Executive PGDM programmes. How does one choose the best for oneself? There is no one programme that fits all. Owing to regulatory norms, most of these programmes follow similar designs with regard to duration, the number of credits and the core courses offered. The differences however are subtler. The FT Rankings 2021 data shows that the top motivations for enrolling in executive management/ business programmes are the development of management skills and networking. Networking requires a diverse, high-quality alumni base as well as a peer group. This is one of the most important differentiators of top schools in any geography and makes them stand apart. These networks are built over time through consistent, high-quality programmes, by nurturing the alumni base over the years and leveraging alumni connect for evolving the programme for current and future cohorts. 

The diversity of experience in the classroom brings out multiple points of view, sparks healthy debates, and creates a learning environment not only for the participants but also the faculty members. The relationship in the class is more participant-facilitator rather than student-teacher. The entire experience of learning is collaborative rather than competitive. The programme portfolio is ever-evolving and contemporary, facilitated by the best faculty who bring academic rigour through deep research and industry perspective through consulting and corporate programmes. Interaction with captains from industry including alumni completes the wholesome experience of executive education these schools offer.

Anyone intending to go back to management school for executive education should be clear about their objective and what they are seeking from it and match it with personal and career goals. This will enable them to choose from the wide variety on offer – full-time vs. education while working, general management vs. specialist offerings, online vs. face-to-face programme, and so on. And of course, the ROI.

(This article was pubished in BusinessWorld.)