Management Education Essay

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As organizations  have grown in size and scale over time, so too  has the  need  for the  systematic  training and development  of managers. To fill that  void, there has been an increasing creation and utilization of programs  in which knowledge about  the distinct functions of organizations could be transferred  to the people who direct them. Today, all manner of organizations and institutions  have begun to teach this class of individuals through  numberless  learning systems, curricula, and processes generally known as management education.

Although  management   education  has  existed  in some form since ancient times, the advent of modern management   education  is a more  recent  phenomenon. It appeared almost in step with the basic structures of modern management, which is a practice that gained awareness as a distinct discipline in the years around World War II. Prior to then, management  had not been commonly  perceived as a central  factor in any economy.

It was not until the late 18th to mid-19th centuries that a handful of figures across business, government, society, and the academy began to emphasize particular roles of management and structures of modern organization. And only by the outset of the 19th century, in the Scottish mill community at New Lanark, did Robert Owen effectively become the first manager, when he began to concern himself with specific issues related to work and worker. But while Owen espoused education as a necessary factor in forming the complete human, it was not until the late 19th century that the Japanese government-official-turned-businessman, Shibusawa Eiichi, began to strongly encourage  higher education opportunities throughout the business community  as a way to improve society. His focus on formal business education has been identified as the conception  of the first professional manager.

Also by the late 19th century and into the first few decades of the 20th, the emergence of new organizational structures  demanded substantive management and formal education  for the people performing  it. There had in the interim been a proliferation of study and thought on management  and organization, especially as “Big Business” took shape in the years around World Wars I and II. By then, academic institutions, mainly in the Western part of the world, had for some time been teaching in disparate  areas and classifications of management; for instance,  Harvard  offered a program  of study in business  administration and the  Massachusetts   Institute   of Technology  offered courses in engineering administration. But in the new order  following World  War II, and notably with the establishment of the GI Bill in the United States, there came a growing demand for business-related courses. As a result, colleges and universities began to offer more  graduate  and  undergraduate courses  in areas such as marketing, finance and accounting, and organizational operation.

But it was not  until  the  1949–50  academic  year, when Peter Drucker joined the faculty of the Graduate Business School at New York University, that the world would be introduced to the first appointment of a professor of management. Through a combination of teaching and consulting work, Drucker observed and formulated  the basic principles  of modern  management. Among his consistent, overarching themes was that it is the responsibility of management  to develop people  to  perform  productively  and  autonomously, and that the highly-skilled worker is the most valuable resource in any organization. These seemingly simple insights had vital implications as Drucker detected  a broad  social and economic  shift from manual  work to knowledge work. For it would become increasingly and continuously necessary for managers to learn about, understand, and integrate  the principles  and practices of good management.

In the coming years, and well before the end of the 20th century, management education programs became a fixture in organizations  and institutions  across the business, government, and social sectors. Today, a good many managers  are likely to have acquired  a master of business  administration (MBA) or  related  graduate degree following their undergraduate studies—and may do so even after having obtained an undergraduate degree from one of the burgeoning programs in management, business administration, or specialized areas of both. Yet much  as these programs  encourage  students  and businesspeople  to communicate with each other  on practical problems  as a method  of learning, there remains a tension within management education as primarily an applied discipline versus an academic pursuit. Among the popular concerns is that the MBA course  of study  is effectively irrelevant  for students who lack adequate managerial experience, and that the concept  of management is being distorted  by excitement  over the perceived glamour of subjects such as leadership and entrepreneurship.

Nevertheless, high executives and upper-level decision makers, middle managers, and other individuals with conceivable potential for management  positions have considerable  access to  a range  of continuous learning opportunities. These include numberless combinations of formal or informal instruction delivered by personnel  within the organization,  external outfits such as management  consultants, or specially designed programs  that draw people to faculty on a college or university campus. It also happens that an outgrowth of this focus on education is an enormous industry  that  produces  books and magazines on all areas of management—even those outside business.

In all, the effective education of managers remains a consistent  need in developed society and especially in the modern era of globalization.


  1. Michael Brocklehurst, Andrew Sturdy, Diana Winstanley, and  Michaela  Driver, “Introduction: Whither the MBA? Factions, Fault Lines and the Future,” Management  Learning  (v.38/4,  2007);
  2. Richard T. Harrison, Claire M. Leitch, and Robert Chia, “Developing Paradigmatic Awareness in University Business Schools:  The Challenge for Executive Education,” Academy of Management Learning & Education (v.6/3, 2007);
  3. Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño and Salvador Carmona, “The Changing  Business Model of Bschools,” The Journal of Management Development (v.26/1, 2007);
  4. Henry Mintzberg, Managers, Not MBA’s: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development (Berrett-Koehler, 2004);
  5. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Christina T. Fong, “The Business School ‘Business’: Some Lessons From the S. Experience,” The Journal of Management Studies (v.41/8, 2004);
  6. Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., Educating Managers Through Real World Projects (Information Age Publishing, 2005);
  7. Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., New Visions of Graduate Management Education (Information Age Publishing, 2006);
  8. Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., Rethinking Management Education for the 21st Century (Information Age Publishing, 2002);
  9. Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., University and Corporate Innovations  in  Lifelong  Learning  (Information Age Publishing, 2008).

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