MBAs, where are you?
A recent editorial took inexperienced MBAs and business consultants who never ran a successful business to task for their lackluster record in running companies. Most our readers seemed to agree, judging from our mail. And we’re still looking for e-mail from a few MBAs to explain why they deserve their salaries and bonuses.
MBAs get no respect
I agree that a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in general does not provide significant training that can be applied to real business-world problems (“Management by mythology,” Nov. 19). After earning a degree in engineering several years ago, I considered working on an MBA. I even took accounting, finance, and economics classes as electives for the undergraduate degree. But to my surprise, all the MBA programs I investigated did not actually introduce any new concepts or go into deeper study than the undergraduate business courses. So I skipped the MBA and have been taking applied business and engineering courses for my continuing education.
Still, an MBA has value. It just took me several years to discover it. The MBA becomes significant during promotions. When equally qualified candidates are up for promotion, the one with the MBA has the edge. In addition, newly minted MBAs are preferred by consulting firms over those with actual business experience and only BS degrees, as was noted in the editorial. The biggest value of the MBA, however, is the contacts one makes during their time in school. It is easier to move up in the world when one personally knows managers in several corporations. These managers scratch each others backs. That is why company directors approve multimillion-dollar salaries for incompetent CEOs.
If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped engineering and joined one of the MBA clubs instead. Then I would be making more money for less work.
Name that gadget
Brian Holman was the first to identify the Nov. 19 gadget as a 1988 Maverick built by Ford Australia. But others were close as the vehicle was known as a Nissan Safari inside Japan and a Patrol outside Japan. But the SUV pictured is indeed the Maverick, a version of the Safari built down under by Ford in Australia. Clear?
I found Teschler’s editorial exceptional this month. He hit on a major issue to me: shareholder value. It’s a driving force of almost every action taken these days by boards of directors. I always thought you built value by building a strong company with viable products, not by cooking the books or spinning fairy-tale financial statements to get the stock price up. This generates short-term targets and creates the sort of shareholder value that is only good if you are selling your shares. MBAs might rule, but they are running us into the ground for short-term goals.
Your editorial on business-school graduates was right on the mark. Some years ago, during one of our all-too-frequent economic recessions while we were also losing jobs to foreign corporations, I came up with a possible solution: Give free scholarships to any and all foreign students entering U.S. MBA programs. The only stipulation would be that after graduation they must return to their own country to exercise their new-found skills. Although it might take a generation to have a significant effect, it would do the U.S. a world of good in the long run. The new MBAs could make their countries’ companies as competitive as ours and it might even crowd out some capable U.S. students who might instead choose truly productive careers.
Here, here, and amen. Our economy and society are reaping the harvest of deifying the Harvard MBA and fellow travelers. Somehow, we fell for the absolutely vacuous idea that formal training in business administration qualifies one to manage any business, without respect to the idiosyncrasies of that business or to the need for accumulated experience in business management. Among other things, the era of the MBA ushered in an almost total lack of ethics along with no long-term commitment to those who toil in the trenches generating the profits (and sometime phantom profits), upon which the MBA execs collect outrageous bonuses before moving on to “help” another unsuspecting company.
I suggest that as many engineers as possible earn their MBA’s, at night school if necessary. Know thy enemy. I believe the best way we can contribute to business is not just to do engineering, but to do it with an eye toward the views and practices of the MBA types in power. Knowing their thought process and evaluation methods could let engineers do a more effective job for the company and society in general.
Maybe if our highly paid executives actually talked to customers and employees, they wouldn’t need to hire MBAs and consultants to tell them what to do.
It’s easy to see what MBAs are doing to the country. It’s in the news every day. They fire employees and sell assets so their companies or those they are advising can concentrate on “core skills and increasing shareholder value.” That’s just management speak for, “we can’t figure out how to make this firm profitable.”
They are incredibly greedy, not to mention totally clueless about the long-term damage they are doing to our businesses and society. It is so frustrating and demoralizing to work on a project to improve a product or production efficiency and get nothing extra for your efforts other than an insincere thank you, and then see company executives getting huge bonuses or stock options based on your efforts.
It is a Nissan Patrol SUV sold by Nissan outside the US.
It looks like a Mitsubishi Pajero.
I believe it’s an early 60s Land Rover.
This is the Dodge Raider sold in the 1980s.
A Toyota BJ-70?