Executive education programmes in many companies are controversial in the sense that while some employees find them useful, others argue they provide mid-level and senior managers with more leisure and time away from work, at the expense of the companies’ resources.
According to Professor Nelson Phillips, who teaches management at London’s Imperial College Business School and has previously taught at the University of Cambridge and McGill University in Montreal, executive education programmes are perhaps one of the few occasions when corporate leaders get the chance to actually think and reflect upon their management and leadership styles.
“People don’t really think when they’re working,” Phillips said while talking to The Express Tribune after conducting a day-long session on High Impact Leadership organised by the Karachi School for Business and Leadership (KSBL) here this week.
“I spent the entire day with a group of corporate executives with over 300 years of collective management experience in one room. As they spend two days away from the work environment, they get the chance to reflect upon their experiences more clearly,” he said, adding that unusual interaction among managers from a range of businesses and fields results in more networking opportunities for everyone.
In addition to technology strategy, knowledge management, organisational forgetting and entrepreneurship, his areas of expertise include family businesses. In spite of many charges against family-owned businesses, such as excessive management control, tax evasion and a strong aversion to corporatisation in countries like Pakistan, Phillips believes family businesses are intrinsically good for an economy.
“They exist in large numbers in both developed and emerging markets. In some countries, their share is as high as 90%,” he said. In the United States, Phillips added, about 60% of businesses can be described as family businesses. “They create jobs and pay taxes. Hence, they’re good for the economy.”
He said the entire blame cannot be laid at the door of family businesses if they evade taxes or manage to stay out of the tax net in countries like Pakistan, Turkey and Brazil. “It’s a result of not developing the system, and the ultimate responsibility lies with the government, not the company.”
Family businesses in Pakistan are so strong and well-established, Phillips said, that many multinational companies have done joint ventures with them to make inroads into the domestic market.
He questions the notion that certain communities – defined in ethnic, racial or cultural terms – are inherently pro-entrepreneurship. Saying that any group of people can become entrepreneurially active if given the right kind of opportunities, Phillips added that societies on the whole could sometimes be friendly or averse to entrepreneurship. “But it mainly depends on government support in creating an enabling environment and increasing people’s willingness to take risks.”
Giving the US example, he said trying to start a new business and failing have little impact on what one does later in his life. That is unlike many other western societies where failure is sometimes unforgiveable, he added.
He also noted that family-oriented entrepreneurship is more common in Pakistan and India, unlike the US where entrepreneurship is more individual-driven because of the premium Americans put on individualism.
Further commenting on different approaches to work practices and business education, Phillips said gaining experience before getting an MBA is considered important for managers in the United Kingdom. On the contrary, getting an MBA immediately after college is more acceptable in the US because accelerated learning without practical experience is considered equally valuable in US society.
“I advise people to work for some time and then go for an MBA. It’s particularly good for those who didn’t study business at undergraduate level.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.
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