ROBERT E. MARKLAND, Feature Editor, College of Business Administration, University of South Carolina
Some Observations on Business Education at the Institute for Management Development International (IMD)
by Arthur V. Hill, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
The developments with the European community, the growing manufacturing strength of the Pacific Rim, the ascendancy of Japan as a manufacturing power, the rapid economic changes in Mexico and South America, and the introduction of free markets in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics have brought a new economic world order. In order to compete in this new economic world order, managers need to have a deep understanding of how to manage all aspects of a global business■and business school faculty need to be "globalized" in order to prepare students to deal with this new world order.
Having just returned from spending a year at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, I have several observations to share with Decision Line readers about my own ``globalization'' experience. I am hopeful that some of these comments will stimulate your thinking about how you teach and conduct research in North America■or wherever you teach. I am also hopeful that my observations will encourage some of you to pursue an international teaching and/or research assignment.
Before I begin my observations, you might want to know something about the Institute for Management Development International (IMD), one of the premier business schools in Europe. With a full-time faculty of about 42 people, the school has an annual revenue stream of about $30 million. IMD has an MBA program with about 82 students from about 23 different countries with no more than five students from any one country. IMD's executive programs are almost evenly split between the "in-company" (customized) programs and "public" (standard) programs, and host about 2,300 participants per year. IMD is one of the most expensive business schools in the world■and one of the best.
Teaching International Topics
Teaching at IMD is inherently international. They do not have courses on international operations, finance, marketing, human resources, etc. All courses are taught from an international perspective. The faculty and the students are from many different countries. At IMD it is the norm to have very few cases from the same country in any one class. However, there is a bias towards cases that have a Western European or North American context■probably because these are the most readily available and best understood. It seems to me our profession needs more cases in a Eastern European, Russian, Japanese, and African context. Although I am an operations guy, I was particularly surprised at the international flavor of the human resources course taught there. It may be that most of the HR courses taught in North American business deal with U.S. labor law and would not go over very well in an international context.
Research Driven by Teaching
Research at IMD includes case development and tends to be driven by the teaching program. In most North American B-schools, research funding is fairly disconnected from teaching programs. At IMD, the research director will generally only support research that directly contributes to one or more teaching programs. In order to get research support, I needed a letter from a program director of one of the executive programs, the MBA program, etc. The idea is that you do the research and/or case writing, expose the results of that research to the participants in the program, refine your research, and then publish. Although many of the faculty at IMD publish in top academic journals, the majority target more practitioner-oriented journals and write numerous cases and books.
I found that the MBA students at IMD were willing and able to make significant presentations to their classmates. I was able to find a number of capable students to present topics such as "Business Process Re-engineering at AT&T," "Operations Management in Saudi Arabia," "An Analysis of the Hotel Industry in Europe," and "Operations Management in Moscow." Most of these were 15 minute presentations. I also found this true for executive groups. I plan to continue to make use of the students' experience in my classes here at the University of Minnesota.
I was amazed at the different views on woman's issues. More than one of the MBAs would call a woman employee a "girl." Male pronouns were the rule, not the exception, in my classes. Only the North American students thought this was an important issue or a problem. Most of the Asian and European students (particularly the men) thought this was only a "problem" for the North American women.
Given that IMD is primarily an executive development institute, they use the word participant, not student. This is more than semantics■participants are treated with some care with meals, coffee, accommodations, recreation, etc. The MBA participants are given a high-quality lunch every day, and faculty are expected to join them.
MBA Student Groups.
While nearly every B-school in North American claims that group activities are a big part of the educational experience, my sense is that IMD does a much better job on this dimension. Students are put into groups of six (and re-grouped about every two months). These study groups have assigned meetings three times per day. The typical schedule looks like this:
Class 8:00 a.m. - 9:20 a.m. Study Group 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Class 10:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m. Lunch 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. Study Group 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Class 3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Faculty often drop in on the study groups. The MBAs work together on almost every case. By the end of the year, the students have had a chance to work with almost every other student. This is a fantastic cultural experience given that the students are from so many different countries. I understand that a few North American schools (such as Babson) also rely heavily on this scheduled group participation.
Many American buzz words are not yet popular in Europe■and it is doubtful that they ever will be. Of course Europeans know the terms JIT and TQM, but many were less familiar with the concepts of benchmarking and business process re-engineering. Many three-letter acronyms and fads in North America are neither known nor wanted in Europe. On a related point, North American instructors must be careful not to use jargon, slang, or idiomatic expressions that have no meaning to an international audience.
Service versus Manufacturing
The programs at IMD have traditionally been manufacturing-oriented, which is what their markets have required. Although IMD has some courses and programs on service management, they don't seem nearly as services-oriented as we are in North America.
I was a bit surprised at how truly international the participants were. Most of the MBA students and executive participants have lived and worked in more than one country. Nearly all participants spoke two or three languages. One MBA student spoke six languages fluently. This is quite a change from the typical North American classroom, in which typically less than a third of the students are non-Americans, and probably less than half even have passports.
End-of-Module Cases IMD, like Babson and a few other North American schools, has an intense group exercise at the end of each module. The students verbally present a case analysis to a jury of two faculty. After a critique, students prepare a final presentation for the next day that is also evaluated by a jury of faculty.
Like most North American B-schools, IMD has a projects course in which students work on a project with a company. Unlike any business school that I've seen, IMD's projects are both extremely international and strategic. While I was there, projects were in Brazil, Denmark, China, Germany, and other countries. Sponsoring companies were required to fly the students to their headquarters for the meetings. The projects invariably focused on some element of the company's international strategy. For example, the project that I helped guide was responsible for creating a strategy for General Motors Europe to develop manufacturing facilities in Eastern Europe.
IMD invests an amazing amount of class time in teaching students to do "industry analysis." This is much more than just compiling a list of competitors. It involves identifying generic strategies in the industry, and plays a big part in the international projects mentioned above.
While IMD has solid coverage of both finance and accounting, I was amazed at the lack of emphasis on quantitative materials. The school does not even offer a course in basic statistics, much less any type of operations research. I wonder if this might be a weakness in the IMD program. Many of the MBAs had technical masters degrees (engineering, econometrics, finance, etc.) and would probably not perceive the need for quantitative courses.
IMD has academic recognition for MBAs similar to nearly all North American B-Schools. But IMD goes beyond that with awards for the MBAs who contribute to the learning environment by helping their classmates. They do this through a "peer recognition" process in which each student selects up to three members of the class who have helped them learn the most during the term. I thought that this was a classy way for IMD to cultivate an environment for cooperative learning.
At IMD all faculty are considered professors, and there is no tenure system. Many of the 30 faculty have Bonuses. We had a very successful executive program as I was preparing to return to Minnesota. The president of the institute allocated some of the profit from this program to all of the instructors in the program. The large bonus was a nice going-away present.
In summary, teaching and research at IMD is quite different from B-schools in North America. I learned a great deal from my year at IMD■and I am hopeful that I have been successful in sharing some of my insights with you. I also hope that this motivates some of you to pursue an international experience yourself.
PS: For a good overview of European B-Schools, I refer you to Helen J. Muller, James L. Porter, and Robert R. Rehder, Reinventing the MBA the European Way, Business Horizons, May-June 1991, pp. 83-91.
Arthur V. Hill is a professor in the Operations and Management Science Department of the Curtis L. Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He holds a B.A. in mathematics from Indiana University, an MS in industrial administration from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in management from Purdue University. Dr. Hill currently serves on the associate editor/editorial review board of the Journal of Operations Management, Production & Inventory Management Journal, Journal of the Production and Operations Management Society, and Technology and Operations Review. Until recently he was the co-editor of JOM. Dr. Hill has worked in Moscow (Moscow Institute of Management), in South Africa (Wits), Hungary (BUES). He was a visiting professor at the Institute for Management Development International (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1994-1995.
Dr. Robert E. Markland