Last month we devoted the CCCC Newsletter to a recent book publication by Henry Mintzberg (1), an MBA professor at McGill University, who made the claim that our entire society is negatively and seriously affected by an inadequate and perverse MBA educational system.  He wondered how a proper and practical MBA could be established to help aspiring leaders lead.  Here might be one answer – the Practical MBA.

  1. What is an MBA?

A Masters of Business Administration (MBA) is specialized training that focuses on the practical administration of a business (the eponym of MBA).  It prepares an individual to oversee, at the highest level, the operations of an enterprise.  As we propose a solution to Dr. Mintzberg’s dilemma in this paper, we will adhere to that definition of MBA.

  1. Dr. Mintzberg’s Initial Postulate

The preface of Dr. Mintzberg’s book includes the comment: “My critique of the MBA (is that it) is business education that I believe distorts managerial practice (and extends to) the practice of management itself, which I believe is off the rails, with dysfunctional consequences in society.”

  1. What’s Wrong?

Dr. Mintzberg’s position about what has gone wrong stems from four considerations.

The first is that MBA schools, especially in North America, have a single focus on analysis (science) while ignoring craft (experience) and insight (art).

The second is that this situation is exacerbated by the fact that an MBA as a management training method has gained a dominance in the market place.  Good or bad, logical or illogical, most leading companies recruit MBA’s for their new and growing management positions.  This is where the action is.  People know that having an MBA is a fast-track to management. And companies feel the best approach to good results is having a fleet of young MBA’s.  Unfortunately, as Mintzberg shows with chapters and tables involving famous people, famous universities and famous companies, the actual results of these MBA-educated people are dismal and dismaying.  The MBA is no panacea.

From Mintzberg, the root of the problem is the emphasis on analysis.  The typical MBA course focuses on hypothetical situations, dismissing or ignoring the experience and arts factors.  Nobody has to actually implement and see the results from these analyses. There is no mess of reality for anyone to clean up.  Thus graduates, who have managed nothing during school, are now asked to manage huge empires and challenges.  Worse, they actually think they can manage them.  Manage them they do, analyzing, recommending but rarely hanging around long enough to see the results because they have moved onto the next great challenge.

Thirdly, according to Mintzberg, the young MBA’s are trained to get results quickly at school because getting the analysis in on time to your professor is more important than the accuracy of the analysis.

A fourth problem is that the whole situation attracts people who seek a fast track to prestige and money as a prime motivator – a focus on oneself – whereas it is known that the best managers are those who set their goal to derive improvement in their staff members – a focus on others.

In all fairness to the many people who do have an MBA and apply it meaningfully and effectively to their own management practices, I find that Dr. Mintzberg’s navel-gazing is a bit harsh on himself and his trade.   Nevertheless his message does sound an alarm that something is amiss with business education.

  1. One Possible Answer – The Practical MBA

It is the combination of high-level training interspersed with practical experience and real results that can provide a solution to the MBA crisis, says Dr. Mintzberg.  He goes on, in his book, to propose such an answer.

CCCC already has a solution to effective management training called The Caswell Management System. It takes a company from cradle to Excellence leading its CEO and senior managers, step-by- step, to levels of previously unattained performance.  Perhaps one could call the Caswell Management System, and the training that it entails, the Practical MBA.  If so, where would such an approach lead us?

  1. The Measure of Successful Management

First, what results do we want with a Practical MBA.  The answer is: successful management.  But what is the measure for successful management?  Although references 2 to 5 spell it out in detail we can summarize it here; successful management can be defined and evaluated in the following way:

  • An indicator of good management is having a high number of directly-reporting staff members that the manager holds in awe.
  • An inverse measure of management is staff turnover. The higher the staff turnover, the poorer the management has been.
  • Likewise good management will create a satisfying work environment for employees.
  • Since most people leave jobs because of a poor relationship with their immediate superior, the key determinant of job satisfaction is the relationship the employee has with the boss (reference 6) as well as that with peers.
  • A well-managed company follows a steadily improving plan of action that leads, progressively to higher levels of achievement of the company.
  • The mature level of achievement is called Excellence by CCCC and it is indicated by the enjoyment and the experience of the following:
  • Steady growth
  •  Predictable profits
  •  Peer companies’ recognition and admiration of your achievements
  •  A staff that gets along with each other and can be said to be having ‘fun’
  •  Clients who feel they are being well-served, who come back for more and who tell others about it
  •  Continual spin-off of new enterprises and their successful management despite the challenges of inexperience
  1. The Practical MBA

Management is all about getting increased results, with an overall goal to attain the pinnacle of Excellence, documented above.

The Caswell Management System, that is, the Practical MBA (PMBA) that will take you there has the following characteristics:

  • It takes about two years to put into practice.
  • It works with employed managers only (avoiding the tendency of unemployed people searching for answers to their dilemma within the MBA program).
  • While the students are learning, they are doing good deeds for their employers, installing successive improvements.
  • It is comprised of three plateaus that must be scaled successively to get to the peak of Excellence. They are:
    • Management fundamentals
    • Problem solving
    • The Assault to the peak
  • Each plateau is comprised of many sub-steps which are summarized at For those interested in specifics, those steps are detailed in 12 Volumes consisting of 2,500 pages, the first volume of which is to be published by General Store Publishing House in September 2004.
  • The PMBA is people-based and does not begin until a method of dealing with conflict successfully, and consistently, is in place (Plateau 1).
  • The Practical MBA operates on the premise that a company cannot aspire to improvement until it first gets rid of its backlog of hidden problems (Plateau 2), because those problems will always hold the enterprise back. (A person cannot aspire to top health until that person first tackles the problem of restrained breathing – quits smoking.)
  • With the major problems wrestled to the ground (Plateau 2), now the traditional MBA improvements can begin: mission, planning, strategy, structure, accountability – leading to the level called Excellence (Plateau 3).
  • The PMBA includes a means to prevent a company, once it has reached Excellence, from falling off that exalted peak. It pays special attention to the twin demons of complacency and arrogance.
  • It is a live experiment performed with the actual management team of the company, providing training and honest-to-goodness results – improved, measured results.
  • It draws in all levels of employees.
  • Each individual student is monitored and given points for (a) taking a particular course or lecture and (b) demonstrating proficiency in terms of achieving results of company performance and training others to do so too. That is, the student, to attain grade points, must do both ‘a’ and ‘b’.
  • The grade points add up to three levels of proficiency, recognized by the awarding of three crystal pyramids, one for each level:

Level 1 – Trainee (5 grade points)

Level 2 – Master (25 grade points)

Level 3 – Emeritus (35 grade points)

The Level 3 corresponds to the traditional MBA – you are now ready to lead and to manage to Excellence.

  1. Getting Improved Results


Management is all about getting increased results.  So, how does the Practical MBA help a person obtain those increased results?  I think that has been answered above.  More to the point of this paper, however, is: how does the Practical MBA fare with the stated concerns that opened this written disclosure?

a) MBA’s have a focus on analysis

The Practical MBA conducts analyses in many of its steps, but analysis, as an entity, constitutes less than 10% of the total program.

b) MBA’s ignore craft/experience

The Practical MBA is all about experience and takes two years of practice to obtain long-term results, all the while ensuring that short-term results are achieved.

c) MBA’s ignore insight/art

The Practical MBA has a focus on preserving ‘V’, Visioning, in an enterprise.  ‘V’, Visioning, is all about creativity, passion and art. ‘V’s decline is defined as the single most important factor that leads to the demise of businesses.  Thus the focus is to preserve ‘V’ forever, fighting its natural and continually preying enemies – expediency and bureaucracy.

d) MBA has world dominance as the degree to get if you want to manage

You can’t fight city hall, and you can’t fight mega trends and waves; hence the name, PMBA.

e) MBA graduates have managed nothing at school

The Practical MBA takes experienced managers and has them manage real, live situations, departments and businesses for two years before receiving certification indicated by the third crystal pyramid.  The crystal achievement symbols are presented annually at a public ceremony, called the Discovery Conference.

f) MBA graduates, even without experience, think that they can manage

The Practical MBA quickly shows aspiring managers whether they are getting the essence of management or not.

g) MBA’s do not hang around to see the results

Practical MBA’s do not get accreditation until they have delivered actual business results in real, live critical situations.

i) MBA’s are trained to get results quickly at the expense of accuracy

The Practical MBA allows quickness of results but not at the expense of accuracy.  If the results are not thorough they will have negative repercussions soon enough – for all the world to see – and, hence, demand correction.

j) MBA’s tend to focus on oneself rather than on the team

The Practical MBA does not even get off the ground (Plateau 1) until the teamwork mentality is in place.

Quad erat demonstrandum!