Business.view: First, do no harm | The EconomistPosted: October 9, 2008
Why is this failure so unsurprising? In a new article in the Harvard Business Review, Rakesh Khurana and Nitin Nohria, who teach at the Harvard Business School, argue that the problem is literally a lack of professionalism. Contrasting corporate managers with doctors and lawyers, the authors title their article with their argument: “It’s Time to Make Management a True Profession”.
As they point out, “unlike doctors and lawyers, managers don’t need a formal education, let alone a license, to practice. Nor do they adhere to a universal and enforceable code of conduct.” Even if individual firms write and enforce corporate codes or value statements, “there’s no universally accepted set of professional values backed up by a governing body with the power to censure managers who deviate from the code.”
Implicit in this argument is a deep criticism of the MBA, a degree that Messrs Khurana and Nohria teach, and which many of today’s failing managers hold. Indeed, there are already rumblings about the failure of the MBA courses that Wall Street’s “finest” took before rising up the ranks of global finance–just as there was after Enron went bust in 2001 (Jeffrey Skilling, Enron’s chief executive, holds an MBA from Harvard).