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Confronting the challenges of modern business management

I HAVE been involved in global university management education for 15 years through living and teaching in Australia, the UK, New Zealand and South Africa. I think there are many profound changes currently taking place in the design and delivery of management education programs, particularly MBA-type degrees.

Firstly, management education is becoming increasingly global and business schools are having to benchmark best practice management education programs from around the world. Schools must be leading edge and at the forefront of management theory and practice.

This is no small task. Faculties are becoming more global as well and staff CVs must now emphasise both international consulting and teaching experience. Management educators also must continually renew themselves through ongoing knowledge development and the dissemination of this to both academic and practitioner arenas for improving manag-ement practice.

Secondly, the impact of the Internet has introduced a new and powerful management education delivery system which, in-turn, has further facilitated globalisation. This channel has made the business school brand as well as the business school professor brand as important as ever.

Thirdly, senior managers are becoming increasingly busy but they still recognise the importance of undertaking management education to enhance both their present and future career. Management careers increasingly are based upon the successful completion of a sequence of tasks and continually enhancing CV brand value rather than a career for life within a particular organisation.

It is as a consequence of these trends that the Graduate School of Management (GSM) at The University of Western Australia (UWA) has recently launched a new and innovative Executive MBA (EMBA), with the first group of senior managers due to start in early 2002. The underlying theme of the EMBA is Transformation – and it will consider the challenges confronting the senior manager in managing transformation within a globalised world.

The EMBA is a part-time degree that takes two years to complete. It is cohort-based with a group of senior managers starting and finishing the program together. This has been designed to facilitate the interaction, networking and peer support among the group of senior managers. The 12 subjects are typically taught over weekends, enabling busy managers to maximise the quality of their time in the program and allowing those not living in Perth to attend. This program design should be attractive for both sponsoring organisations as well as self-sponsored participants as it:

p minimises time away from the workplace and should provide immediate benefits, such as the transferring of knowledge and skills learnt back to work;

p should enable sponsoring organisations to benefit from their senior managers being able to benchmark best practice and lessons learnt from organisations from around the world;

p will improve the ability of the individual to lead and manage change; and

p will provide an important qualification for those people who want to continually fast-track their own career.

The EMBA is not a new qualification. In-fact, the first Business School to offer an EMBA was the University of Chicago in 1943. But an increasingly important global trend has been the growth of EMBA programs worldwide. Such programs have been characterized by block week day teaching but our own market research in WA has helped us to conclude that weekend teaching is by far the most preferable program design and mode of teaching delivery. Our busy senior managers tend to travel interstate during the week or typically travel to Singapore and return to Perth on Friday evenings.

Many of the 25-plus core faculty at the GSM have international academic reput-ations and extensive consulting and industry experience. It is this blend of theory and practice that is so necessary to provide a rich learning experience for senior managers and enables our EMBA to be predicated on the principles of action learning.

The variety of teaching and learning approaches will be appropriate for this type of senior management learning and it will include case studies, individual and group exercises and online web-based com-munication.

Another innovative component within the EMBA design is the building-in of an integrated sequence of personal develop-ment workshops, such as the topic emotional intelligence as well as each participant being allocated their own personal mentor, whose role is to guide the senior manager through the process as well as the content of learning.

I believe management education is a fundamental necessity for organisations to grow – it is much more than just being something that is nice to do.

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