A fresh start
Three experts reflect on their experience of pursuing a management development course and how it reshaped their journey.
Three industry experts share their experience of pursuing MDPs and how it veered the course of their career.
There is an old British Airways ad that had the headline, ‘have you ever wondered why children walk to school but always run out?’; many of us as children exhibited that behavior. Sometimes it was the boring physics class or the chemical unit operations class or the taxation case. We have felt like running out of class. Equally there have been occasions when we have felt that may be, just may be, we should go back to school for a refresher.
I decided to go back to business school a few years ago as I was transitioning my role at my old organization and getting ready to build a longer runway for my own growth. My timing may not be applicable to all of you. So the first question you need to ask is: when? And there is no perfect time to go back to school. The decision may depend on the industry, your own career progress, the skill gap you have identified, etc.
The next question that comes up is ‘what?’. In my case, it was the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program (AMP). I had heard of it from several of my friends and was keen that I should take an eight-week break to do the program. Yes, at eight weeks it is long, but apparently it was designed by HBS to help returning World War II veterans to get back into corporate jobs. It was originally an 18-week course that over time has been reduced to eight weeks. Even at eight weeks, it is pretty packed and heavy, especially for those executives who are not used to reading 100 pages of data (and information) every night.
What do you get from a course like AMP? The first big learning is that you are no longer the ‘boss’. You are in a room where all are equals. Soon, you realize that many in the class run far bigger companies and teams than you have done. The diversity of the class lends a great amount to the learning. In my class of 160, we had men and women from over fifty countries and from diverse industries.
Whichever program you go to, this will be played out in its own way. The class will be a mix of people and each of you will have the same share of voice.
The class is just the start of the learning that we went through. The fact that the participants were all housed in the same residential facility, the creation of unique Living Groups added to the learning. In each Learning Group of eight there were people drawn from different parts of the world and from divergent backgrounds.
The pedagogy at HBS AMP was indeed highly varied though the case method dominated the process. In the program, we got to listen to many business leaders including Jack Welch. Many business schools have built in industry interaction into their MDP schedule. And the learning is further enhanced with these great personalities and their own stories. I got as much out of the class as I got outside it. The discussion with fellow participants over lunch and dinner was a class in itself.
As you pick an MDP to go to, you need to do some homework on what you want out of it. Is it just a ‘tag’ you want to display? Or is it going to be just another opportunity to ‘network’? Or are you looking at enhancing your skills and become a better leader and a better manager?
If you are willing to put in that extra into the MDP you go to, you will get all the above and more. I enjoyed the HBS AMP experience. Learnt about a lot of new management concepts (I was back in a B School almost after 35 years). Understood the complexities of diverse countries and industries. Given my interest in management education, saw the best teachers of management in close action. And importantly, made some very good friends from around the globe. I think going back to school was fun. I did not definitely run out of this school. ■