Adapting to change

Business schools play a pivotal role in upgrading skills of not only middle managers, but also of executive managers who feel the need to sharpen their skills in management and leadership fields.

The role of business schools is evolving fast in the developed world and in Southern Africa. The traditional executive MBA has evolved into specialist MBAs: for example the finance MBA, the project management MBA, the banking MBA, the public sector MBA, the leadership MBA, the management MBA and the tourism MBA. In Southern Africa the trend is more or less the same. Business schools now offer specialist courses in addition to the executive MBA.

For example, at our Milpark campus the executive MBA programme is geared towards the middle manager and the executive. Students vary in age from 25 to 45 years. This broad group can be divided into two distinct groups: middle managers (25 to 35 years old) and executives (35 to 45 years old).

The needs of these two groups differ because middle managers are looking for growth and promotion, whereas the executives are looking for stability and consolidation in their present positions or perhaps want to acquire new skills to migrate into business.

The age group has not changed much in the past 10 to 15 years and we expect the trend to continue. The stability of the age group confirms that mature and experienced candidates are being accepted into the MBA programmes across the globe.

What is changing in the business school’s landscape is the way business is being done. With the advent of high-powered computers, high-powered communication tools and the internet, there is a need for computer literacy in both facilitators and students.

Although we will probably never reach a stage where we have business schools without lecturers, satellite technology and distance learning are going to be the ‘in thing” in the near future for busy executives and those in remote areas.

It has become trendy to offer a cocktail of qualifications at the same business school to cater for people with different needs.

Some executives would like to reshape themselves, but not necessarily at MBA level. So they choose short courses such as project management, risk management and leadership.

Middle managers who want to climb the corporate ladder quickly and are impatient to wait for the senior executives to retire want to float across the industry in search of a good organisation, and they need a qualification that enables them to do just that. That qualification is an MBA.

Then there are business people who want to learn how to manage their businesses better. They want a qualification that gives them the nuts and bolts of good management, financial accounting and leadership. That qualification is an MBA.

Sometimes we get seasoned civil servants who aspire to be directors general in government and they want a good qualification that can give them hands-on management and leadership skills. An MBA will also suit them.

Bearing in mind the needs of students, the approach in the provision of such programmes should be one that is flexible.

Dr Mbuya is a corporate banker, part-time MBA lecturer in South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, a guest risk management lecturer at various colleges and a turnaround strategist. He is an executive director of Ascendancy Risk Management Specialists and has published articles on risk management and turnaround strategies

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