In their book, “Promises Fulfilled and Unfulfilled in Management Education”, Howard Thomas et al. (2013) quote a Dean saying that degree certificates should be written in invisible ink. It is an interesting idea. If 80% of products we use today did not exist 10 years ago as marketers tell us, then we should be constantly going back to formal education to relearn new methods and techniques. The usefulness of knowledge learn at the age of 20, may have ‘disappeared’ by the time we are 30 or 40.
Working in higher education means that you should constantly get the chance to challenge set logic. (Or have it challenged by bright colleagues and students.) Still, there is no reason that the same reasoning should not apply. I have therefore chosen to begin this semester by going back to school myself. For the next two months I will be studying Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
By all accounts it is a very intense program, an intellectual and management boot camp if you will. It has been designed to push people to the limits for their management efficiency and their capacity to deal with a vast quantity of work. This short Wall Street Journal report gives a excellent insight to the ethos of the program.
The course is a large personal investment but I am also very grateful to my family, friends and colleagues for their support in this. There will be a colossal amount of work to do in the coming months for all the participants but I am aware that my own team will also have extra things to do in my absence. (It was also kind of them not to break open the champagne until they were absolutely sure that I had left the office!)
In theory, it is a 6-day a week program, but most of the former participants I have spoken to point out that most of Sunday is spent reading all the case studies that have to be prepared for the following week. One blog I have read about the program gives a start time at 7am which then goes through until 11pm. Just your normal 16 hour day then (assuming a little time to eat and do some exercise.) A rough calculation puts that at an 90-100 hour week. So, no pressure then!
I was lucky enough to speak to a very senior executive from a government agency was on the program during the Boston bombings in April 2013 and would normally have been involved operations after the event.
“That must have been difficult for you trying to deal with the course and the entire bombing affair at the same time.” I said.
“I was so busy on the program that I really didn’t have time to deal with it, relying on people in his team to deal with the matter.“
That kind of puts the workload in perspective. Another former participant put it another way.
“If you want to take 30 minutes in the day to call home, you will have to decide what you are not going to do that day.”
The program was set up in 1942 and was originally called the War Management Program and designed for civilians. From there Harvard realized that people over 35 were capable of still learning (!) and after the war they changed the name to the Advanced Management Program. It was the first program of its type in the USA and is thus the very genesis of executive education for managers.
The program accepts about 170 participants for each cohort. All the participants are senior managers with an average of 20-25 years of experience. That’s about 3500 years of work experience under the same roof and a unique opportunity to learn about the challenges in a whole range of different industries and services.
All managers at that level are used to working long hours, but the basic idea behind the AMP is to push them so hard then they are forced to find quicker ways to do things and to seek out new solutions. Can it really be as tough and enduing as that? Time will tell. Everyone I have met who has done the program talks about an exhausting couple of month but a highly enriching experience.
Enjoy your start to the new academic year.
From the incorporation of Harvard Business School (HBS) in 1908, its founders wrestled with questions regarding the School’s institutional mission and social responsibilities intrinsic to the study of business within the university setting. It soon became apparent that the School, which occupied parts of far-flung buildings on the Harvard grounds in Cambridge, would require a larger, integrated site to sustain its growing student population.
Hegeman-Harris Company, the contractors hired to construct the HBS campus, documented the construction progression from a fixed point looking northeast from Harvard Stadium in a series of photographs now held by the HBS Archives. This selection of images shows the campus development from spring 1925 through fall 1926. Construction of the campus was completed in 1927.