zaterdag 28 mei 2016

Comfortably against the grain

Consultant Ben Tiggelaar is known for his successful training sessions under the name ‘MBA in a Day’. At the same time I know him as the author of provocative management critical columns in NRC. In it he shows himself comfortably against the grain.

Thus,  for example, he criticizes the fashionable emphasis on learning. That easily becomes a policy thing, he says, imposed by supervisors who are not really interested. Of them Tiggelaar says: “Do not misunderstand me, I am in favour of learning and development. But I am against impossible plans that you invent, and I must run”.

And when he reads a passage like this: “Employees in functiongroup 3 must with respect to the competence ‘situational awareness’ be at ‘expert level’”, he knows for sure: he would never again be employed. Tiggelaar actually wants not to have to do with managers any longer.

In reading his columns I sometimes wonder why Tiggelaar presents his training under the aegis of MBA. Indeed, does ‘Master of Business Administration’ not represent all those things he shoots in a refreshingly decisive way? Such as: an overemphasis on control via  budgets, financial planning and HR tools. Or, by extension, a unhealthily strong division between leaders and performers.

Tiggelaar,  I think,  fully agrees with Henry Mintzberg who in Managers, not MBA’s says about MBA’s that “too many of them are trapped in a regime of rational tunnel-thinking, schematic planning and calculating management”. Tiggelaar: “Many managers do more harm than good, they are the worst cause of stress. People do not quit jobs, they quit bosses”.

So why then this MBA advert for his trainings?

It could very well be of course that Tiggelaar puts that in his ads because the predicate MBA - rightly or not - has a strong reputation. I do not believe that the successful completion of the training day produces any title, but mentioning ‘MBA’ may act as bait. Mintzberg confirms that a scientific label, such as an MBA degree, is highly regarded in management circles.

But perhaps Tiggelaar, by the use of the term MBA, intended to for once give it a critical interpretation and to direct the managers’ attention to the absurdity of much  management rhetoric.

Given the brave waywardness of his columns I choose for this last explanation.