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.
- 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);
- 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);
- Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño and Salvador Carmona, “The Changing Business Model of Bschools,” The Journal of Management Development (v.26/1, 2007);
- Henry Mintzberg, Managers, Not MBA’s: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development (Berrett-Koehler, 2004);
- 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);
- Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., Educating Managers Through Real World Projects (Information Age Publishing, 2005);
- Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., New Visions of Graduate Management Education (Information Age Publishing, 2006);
- Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., Rethinking Management Education for the 21st Century (Information Age Publishing, 2002);
- Charles Wankel and Robert DeFillippi, eds., University and Corporate Innovations in Lifelong Learning (Information Age Publishing, 2008).
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