January 19, 2009, 6:00 am

The MBA Cycle Part2 – The Darker Side of the MBA

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: MBA
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The other day, I wrote about my very first experience in my MBA. As the classes come and go, I discover several other aspects of this program. While I still enjoy my experience and I would do it again if I had the choice to go back in time, I have discovered some dark sides of doing a Master in Business Administration. Before you start reading what is following, keep in mind that I am doing a regular MBA and not an Executive MBA (which is for senior managers and is probably way different than the regular MBA).

2nd and 3rd Semester: The Darker Side of the MBA and their students!

After our first semester, I was eager to get my results. We had a few tests, papers and exercises to complete during the semester but the bulk of our mark was built through the end of term exam and group project. The group project, along with a presentation in front of the class, always counted for about 50% of our marks.

We finally got our marks and the average of the class per assignments. I was completely shocked to discover that there were absolutely no difference among all group project (standard deviation was about 1% and we were 7 or 8 groups). Therefore, everybody was starting with the same mark (that worth at least 50% of the overall result).

I pointed this “anomaly” to our director. He answered that when you get to that level, it is normal that each team is about the same strength. I understand that we are now at a Master level with people with experience and all that. However, to take a hockey analogy, it’s not because your team is playing in the NHL that you automatically win 50% of your games. I’m sorry, but if I have to choose between Sydney Crosby and Guillaume Latendresse, I’m obviously picking Crosby even though they are playing in the same league!

So here’s my theory: No matter what you do as a team, you will just do fine! I kept working hard simply because I wanted to learn something out of it, because we ended with the average (and sometimes below!) all the time. On the other side, our group have the strongest marks individually (strange isn’t?).

As I wrote in two previous articles, we also encountered people that don’t want to work and hope to get a free ride on the MBA train. This is where I learned an important lesson; it is not necessary to bite every time someone is not doing their job, there are ways to accommodate the situation and get rid of the person in a proper manner. One of my colleague gave me 2 great examples as he took care of both situations (after I prematurely bite 😉 ).

So the MBA is not necessarily what it means. You can work hard and learn a lot. But you can also can count on the teamwork free ride and get it for “free”. Let just say that the 3 letters don’t impress me that much anymore 😉

Don’t get me wrong, it is a great program with great teachers and you have the opportunity to learn a lot. However, not everybody take on this opportunity and still finish with a diploma.

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Your experience sounds familiar to law school and, from what friends tell me, most professional schools. Law schools have a bell curve of a B so maybe 10% of the class gets an A and 10% gets a C but it is almost impossible to fail out of law school. You show up, you do some minimal level of reading and you don’t do anything stupid and you get a degree.

Professional schools are businesses. They want to pass everyone who are potential donor sources. That is, as you call it, the dark side of education at that level.

My experience in law school has been quite the opposite of what you suggest TMW although this might differ from one school to the other. Just showing up and doing minimal amount of reading got a few individuals quickly out of there.

I did my MBA in ’97. It’s been a great experience all in all but the other aspect that I find a bit annoying is the fact that everyone thinks that either your a nerd now that you have it or that you have the answer to all questions because of it…
I’ve also been in a situation that I didn’t mention it on my résumé when applying for a job; one of the interviewers told me flat out that he finds anyone with an MBA as a “threat” instead of looking at it as an advantage & bonus for the company…
Having said this though, I would do it again anytime. The great camaraderie, friendship & most of all contacts that it brought me was well worth the money invested!

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