Executive Education: The Need For An Overhaul In Management Development Programs

The business model of executive education is stressed, sub-optimal and an overburdened donkey that is badly in need of an overhaul as if it were a machine. This sort of sums the issues with the model under action currently.

The management education discipline is staring at uncertainty – the business model is under stress and the needs of the clients are changing at an ever fast rate. The concept of Executive education caters to multiple objectives such as dissemination of knowledge to the industry (with the notion that it ought to be applied), learning for the younger faculty such that they themselves can be groomed as excellent trainers for the times to come (not that they can’t deliver or add value to the industry), increasing the industry-academia bond and a couple of others at higher or more micro level. The current status of executive education in India is not far from satisfactory and they are a preferred program for enrolment of employees by organizations which see value imparted in these programs. Most employees see most of the programs as awards for good performance and reach the institutions seeking a holiday. Most of the faculty get into the class bracing for a barrage of experience sharing from the participants who probably have few others outlets to share their magnificent work and innovations.  The organizations are seeking value for money spent on such programs and the institutions struggle to add value to the money being given for such programs.

In short, the business model of executive education is stressed, sub-optimal and an overburdened donkey that is badly in need of an overhaul as if it were a machine. This sort of sums the issues with the model under action currently. First, let’s look at the positives.

It is a donkey and it is designed to slog. That good news because a donkey doesn’t really expect too much and continues its daily rigmarole without much ado about anything. The executive education model gets so little attention of conceptualizing or planning in most institutions that its revenues end up being treated as easy money taking away credit from the hard work of the faculty and managers at the institution and the departments concerned at the corporate organizations.  As the MBA education model itself comes without the undergraduate volumes attached to it, it is under stress for making ends meet and figuring out economies of scale to survive and continue to pay the salaries of the faculty and the staff, it is unable to take the stress for investment in “developing” an executive education model or business vertical. It ends up bring best championed by a passionate crusader mostly where personal gains are aligned with institutional gains thanks to a favorable income sharing formula. The stress never the less remains. Moreover, there are very few long-term contracts for executive education and this means you have a very high search cost for sourcing participants into the programs. This only makes a customized offering in the flash of time a near impossibility irrespective of the capability of the faculty. The good news is that being the donkey it is, it will continue to bring in much-needed money for the institutions and the same can be used to subsidize the cost of education for many programs offered to students. It, therefore, makes great Keynesian sense.

The executive education model is sub-optimal because it has too many targets for the program rather than being stakeholder goals alone. This means it is common for the programs to confuse between customization and achieving a higher goal or outcome. The model is serving too many stakeholders with disparate goals and paths. It is like public transport (read donkey) – worth low on the experience but still preferred for its cost-effectiveness. It is great because it is evaluated on by-product costing. It is also sub-optimal because it is made to function like a machine that will produce and earn money like the production theory of microeconomics without consideration for the demand side. It has dehumanized executive education to a large extent by bottling up the creative genie in established frameworks and structure and timetables and the usual lectures. The model is optimal for none of the stakeholders and therefore the richer organizations have started to graduate towards other training avenues from management institutions.

It surely needs an overhaul but the chances of one are bleak because it continues and will continue to deliver money to the institutions and some critical training to the executives. A teacher here and there will rise above narrow self-interest and deliver a life-defining mantra which will become the guru mantra for some of the participants. The anecdotal success story of this participant will be good enough to sell the program to many others irrespective of their need and suitability for the same. It also exposes the sheer lack of good training opportunities that corporates have for their employees. The whole market is waiting to burst and the potential of the Indian corporates and economy lies locked in unproductive or less-productive employees who are not helped by, even, such training programs.  

It is high time, the various stakeholders came together and sat down to talk to each other and figure out a new model to deliver executive education in a manner that was revolutionary for the economy and business, radical for the organization and employees and rejuvenating for the faculty of the institutions involved instead of being meaningful to the organization, useful for the employee and helpful to the institution. It is time a high quality, high satisfaction, exalted experience of executive education was created in India in the short duration format for the 21st century. This is one climate that needs change desperately to achieve its potential.

This article was published in BW Education issue dated 'Nov. 20, 2018' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Nov-Dec 2018'

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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