In the context of Industry 4.0 trends and millennials in the classroom, the role and effectiveness of MBA faculty have been put under the spotlight. Speaking at the 10th Indian Management Conclave recently, global management guru Prof. Henry Mintzberg said, “Today, most journal articles written by MBA faculty are so convoluted that managers simply don’t read them. If we are not reaching out to managers with our research, who is the faculty speaking to?”
Roles of faculty
MBA faculty is expected to perform four roles — teacher, researcher, consultant, and trainer. These roles are intertwined and are expected to be complementary towards the main goal of being in the business of professional MBA education.
In the initial stage of business education, the concentration was on teaching or making others learn after being learned oneself. Since subjects and content were evolving, it was emphasised to prepare technical/academic notes to prove that one clearly understood the content we are talking about. It was not possible to write these notes without an interdisciplinary understanding of business, nor could it be made rich without an understanding of business practices. This necessitated studying management practices in various firms, discussions with business executives and delving into various sciences to develop a clear understanding and equipping learners with the right meanings.
It was realised that to make MBA a professional qualification, different pedagogies were required. ‘Case method’ came up as the most important pedagogy as against the scholarly ‘lecture-cum-discussion method’. The faculty would be invited in the problem-solving processes of an organisation given their exposure to various management practices. They then started putting them forward as cases in the classrooms to improve the decision-making ability of future managers. Some faculty started researching the problem to evaluate the decision taken. The research was carried out with the organisation. Organisations, in turn, started using the faculty to share this knowledge and improve the skills of their managers. The role of the faculty as a consultant, researcher, trainer, and teacher still remained intertwined.
Call for introspection
Liberalisation of the economy in the 1990s, created massive demand for managers and led to the growth of MBA education in the country. The first concern of B-schools was to get teachers who could engage the class. Soon, there were scholars from single disciplines drafted as MBA faculty, who put long hours into teaching their subject, as it is taught in universities. B-schools hardly had time to develop them as faculty for professional education. Soon, MBA professional education drifted to teaching tools and techniques for job positions and business sense got into the back seat. For applications, they depended on practitioners invited as guest faculty. Over time, faculty started taking academic teaching and industry exposure as two separate functions.
The expected role of B-school faculty in India is thoroughly mauled. What you have is either a scientific researcher or a teacher who is primarily an information deliverer or a soft-skills trainer for seasoned managers, and hardly a consultant. The need is to have an integrator who can bring research, teaching, consulting and training skills to deliver a truly professional MBA education.
So, how can we produce effective faculty members? Structural reforms are needed in our PhD programmes at universities and Fellow programmes at IIMs. Research Fellows who are training to be future faculty members need to rise to the occasion and integrate their education and training with the needs of business and society so that their teaching, research, consulting and training creates a positive impact on students and other stakeholders.
Perhaps they will do well to follow Dr. Mintzberg’s advice given at Indian Management Conclave: “MBA faculty must be grounded. They must connect with the realities of business and society. They should create impact by effective teaching and research-based on real issues that businesses are facing, and not live in their ivory towers.”
Source:- The Hindu