Management education in crisis

There is a strong sense today that management education has lost its way. Roger Martin (Dean of the Rotman School of Management, Toronto) observed that “business schools are under intense criticism and, in the view of some, have reached a point of crisis. Both academics and management practitioners criticise MBA programmes for their lack of relevance to practitioners”. And Martin's remedy? Nothing less than a fundamental reformulation of management education: “we are on the cusp of a design revolution in business… today’s business people don’t need to understand designers better, they need to become designers”.

The importance of design in business education is its integrative nature. Designers solve problems by synthesising ideas in a collaborative milieu; design naturally brings together the various specialisations that make up the fragmented business curriculum, showing their practical relevance and binding them into an integrated whole. For more, click here or see chapter 5 of my book :-)


Case Studies

A list of case studies, showing design at its best, but some of the dark-side of design  too!

1) The paradox of the Integrated Children's System (ICS)Chapter 1 from my Technomagic book focuses on the problems of the ICS, a major IT system in UK social work.

2) SPRINT's finest hour at Salford: the Contact Centre

3) A design atrocity: the Vetting and Barring Scheme

4) Ensuring Entitlements to the Poor in Rural India: auditing payments with a mobile phone app.

5) Redesigning ambulance services in London and Manchester: A tale of two cities

6) The more for less challenge: improved communication with the Lancashire Schools Portal

7) Keeping children safe at the hospital/community interface: a systems approach to safeguarding

8) Developing an Integrated Approach to Performance Improvement: The Whole System of Work (Sean Sheridan)

Opportunity knocks for the Information Systems field

Redefining the practice of management as design has important implications for scholars, like myself, in the field of Information Systems (IS). Referring to the failure of the Integrated Children's System, a major IS project in the UK, I opined in a recent article in the European Journal of Information Systems, that: 

Our knowledge of design, as IS scholars, is compendious and stands ahead of the other management disciplines .... We can see this in the ICS case study. There is nothing new here from the perspective of our knowledge base, an “old story” indeed ... Another failed project, and all the critical failure factors are there: disengaged senior management, excluded users, weak project management, and so on. Blind faith “in IT as a magic bullet” predominates ... The ICS is a story of “escalating commitment” if ever there were one...  My case is thus a simple one, a call-to-arms to jump aboard the management-as-design “bandwagon” and take our rightful place in the vanguard; no “full sea” perhaps but certainly a “current which serves”. Our knowledge-base is certainly formidable, ranging from practical design methods and tools, knowledge of particular classes of artifact, knowledge of the design process itself and its potential dysfunctions. Our relevance to practice becomes incontestably obvious, for managers in general not just the IS specialist. Idealistic perhaps, but surely there is a decisive opportunity here to be confidently seized. 

Details of the article are as follows:

Wastell, D.G. (2010) Managing as designing: “opportunity knocks” for the IS field? European Journal of Information Systems, 19 (4), 422-431.

Please email me for a personal copy. 

Annual Conference 2011

Since its inception in 1995, the User Group has held an annual conference, normally in the Autumn. The 7th such event was held in Altrincham at the beginning of last December. Here is a synopsis of the agenda:

Managers as designers in the public services: beyond technomagic (David Wastell, Nottingham University)

The Innovation Alliance: A new Social Enterprise and home for SPRINT (Phil Clifford, the Innovation Alliance)

A ‘Structured Process for Innovation and Radical Change’ - a contradiction in terms? (Barrie McKinnon, Salford City Council)

Case study I: How our BPR team raised its game and climbed the Senior Management Ziggurat (Mike Horsley, Halton Borough Council)

Does it make the boat go faster? (Geoff Hart, SPRINT User Group Board and former Head of ICT, Warrington Borough Council)

Case Study II: A Gate-keeping Portal for 647 schools in the Lancashire (Jane Beckford, Service Improvement programme Manager, Lancashire County Council)

A copy of Mike Horsley's presentation may be found here, and a summary of the Portal case study is here