Managerial Education and the Real World: Foundations for Designing Educational Tools


  • Cynthia M. Pavett
  • Alan W. Lau


"Mintzberg’s (1973) framework of managerial work was used to examine the correspondence between MBA student’s and practicing manager’s perception of the roles and skills necessary for job success. Results indicated that there was a strong relationship between what students and managers thought about the relative importance of both the role and skill areas. The results imply that the process of graduate business school education conveys a realistic picture of managerial work. These results, along with Mintzberg’s framework, provide useful information for the design and selection of cases, exercises and simulation for MBA students. Management educators and training and development practitioners traditionally adopt a process approach to management education. This approach views the manager as a reflective planner, organizer, controller, coordinator, etc. The process approach originated from the early work of Fayol [3] and is reflected in the structure of not only our basic management textbooks, but also our management simulations and experiential exercises. Recent evidence [14, 15] however, indicates that practicing managers are anything but the reflective planners that Fayol described. A more recent approach to describing the nature of managerial work was proposed by Mintzberg [11] who takes an action approach to examining the roles and skills necessary for effective performance. The purpose of this paper is to examine the nature of managerial work as reported by practicing managers and business students. A comparison of the students’ view of management to what is really happening has invaluable implications for designing simulations and exercises that approximate the real world. In essence, this research looks at the gap between the process and action view of management. In this descriptive research, Mintzberg [113 delineated ten managerial roles that describe the job activities of senior executives. The roles identified by Mintzberg (see Table 1) consist of three interpersonal roles (figurehead, leader, and liaison), three informational roles (monitor, disseminator, and spokesperson), and four decisional roles (entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator). Since this research was done on an extremely small sample of managers, subsequent research has focused on the generalizability of these role descriptions to larger managerial samples [7; 8; 9; 16; 17]. Other studies suggest that differences exist in the relative importance of the managerial roles across hierarchical levels and functional specialties [1; 10; 13; 14]. All of these studies support Mintzberg’s contention that managers at all levels perform similar roles but with a different emphasis. "