When the "B" in MBA Does Not Stand for 'Business'

I have just completed my course of study in earning my Master of Business Administration degree. While the official grades will not be released until May 22 and the actual degree will not be mailed until the end of June, I have finished all the coursework and will finish at UHV with a GPA of 3.94. More to the point, I have had the pleasure of working with a broad range of faculty and students. And while I am generally proud of my fellow graduates and respect the talents and hard work of our faculty, I also understand why Scott Adams has been making fun of MBA holders this week.

Sadly, there are quite a few MBA candidates and graduates who really do not understand what the degree is for, and who are frankly going to cause harm to the company they join and damage the school’s reputation by association, because their focus is on their own advantage, rather than in seeking to improve their company through hard work . I am appalled to see that so many people think that the MBA is a lever for their own advancement, rather than a tool to be used to find solutions and improve performance. That is, the MBA holder does not solve problems and find solutions simply by being on the scene, he or she should understand that the courses and resources provided in the MBA curriculum are meant to provide tools that the individual may use to find the answers and solutions needed in their work, and that while they may hope for personal reward and advancement, the proper focus is on service, not ego.

Another problem is the unprepared MBA holder, someone who has the degree but does not know how to properly use it. I discovered a sad example of this at the MBA Case Competition, where the majority of teams proposed recommendations which were actually in conflict with PetSmart’s clearly stated goals and objectives. In a real-world situation, a consulting group which is unaware of the corporate strategy of its client is going to go out of business very soon. In this case the individuals may have the best intentions, but failing to base recommendations on the company’s actual condition and needs is well below a professional standard.

My father warned me many years ago against being impressed by lofty degrees, While he himself held a Masters degree in Mathematics, as well as Bachelors degrees in Chemical, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering, he made it a point never to boast about it or give the impression that he was smarter than other people. At the same time, he was never impressed by people in high office or who attached proud initials after their name, be it ‘PhD’, ‘MD’, ‘JD’, what have you. He always seemed to me to take after John Adams in that respect, a man who truly understood the character of republican democracy in practice. That may seem a non-seqitur in this discussion, except that many people fall into the habit of assuming that a grand title or high-sounding designation makes a person more capable than ordinary folks. That’s not to disparage the value of an MBA, I agree it implies a degree of work and ability, but at the same time no MBA makes a person immune to mistakes, and foolishness from a self-important person can be much worse than the same nonsense from someone more willing to admit he could be wrong.

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