An Executive MBA is credited with providing graduates with a number of different skills, not least a wider perspective on business management and practices. But the benefits of this prestigious business school degree go much further.
In the first of this monthly series on the benefits of an Executive MBA, QS Top Executive talks to the business school experts on how an EMBA helps candidates make better decisions.
A unique selling point of the Executive MBA is the ‘helicopter view’ of business it gives executives. Rather than focusing on a particular aspect or specialisation, an EMBA allows participants to increase their knowledge of a variety of business functions while being able to take a step back to see just how each of these functions work as a whole.
This better understanding of how various business functions interact and influence each other encourages a new way of thinking, according to Ashley Arnold, Director of MBA/DBA Recruitment at Henley Business School in the UK. “It [EMBA] provides candidates with the ability to articulate ideas better and feel empowered to put forward solutions,” Arnold says. “Ultimately it can help people become more pragmatic and able to make sound decisions with only limited information at hand.”
This new approach to viewing business is the first step for many EMBA participants on their road to becoming better managers, leaders and ultimately, better employees, and being able to make better decisions is an integral part of the journey. Dr Marian Iszatt-White, Director of the Executive MBA at Lancaster University Management School in the UK believes an Executive MBA has an important role to play in enabling competent managers to develop into senior strategic leaders.
“We place great emphasis on learning through action in the firm belief that this methodology generates the maximum learning and builds candidates’ capacity to operate at a strategic level,” she says. “The feedback we get from alumni regularly reports an increased understanding of the strategic context within which they are required to operate and the ability to ‘speak the language’ of senior management. This results in EMBA graduates being better able to influence important decisions at an organizational level and to translate top-level decisions into meaningful objectives and practices for their teams,” Dr Iszatt-White says.
There has been continued discussion within the business education domain from all sides – schools, candidates, employers – as to the value of soft-skills. While much of the learning within the EMBA classroom is measurable – better business plans, new strategic approaches, greater understanding of finance, HR and marketing practices - the evidence of soft skills (communication, leadership, personal development) isn’t always as obvious, at least not immediately.
However, it’s this focus on soft skills in an EMBA program that Dr Iszatt-White believes contributes to an executive’s ability to make better decisions in the workplace upon graduation. “An emphasis on soft as well as hard skills supports candidates in developing greater self awareness and an understanding of employee motivation and organizational culture, both of which enable them to make more effective decisions when leading their teams and presenting themselves to the wider organization and beyond.”
The format of the Executive MBA program and its ability to equip participants to immediately implement their learnings into the workplace is a major attraction for many candidates, particularly those who don’t want to put their career on hold. But the relative flexibility of the program also means that current business issues can be discussed, taught and put into practice at a time when value can still be added, ultimately leading to better decisions being made.
At Westminster Business School in the UK, Dr Susan Balint, Director of MBA programmes says the EMBA combines the fundamentals of key functional business areas with modules which take a multi-disciplinary approach to real-world business issues incorporating sustainability issues and Corporate Social Responsibility.
“This holistic approach encourages students to take a broad view of any problem or challenge, teaching them to assess all possible outcomes, and make decisions based on their analysis,” Dr Balint explains. “They are also challenged to make decisions, even when only limited information is available – replicating real life.
“For part-time MBA students this training in effective decision-making can have an immediate impact as they put into practice their new approach in the workplace.”