Henry Mintzberg wrote a blog post titled MBAs as CEOs: Some troubling evidence (22 February 2017).

« MBA students enter the prestigious business schools smart, determined, and often aggressive. There, case studies teach them how to pronounce cleverly on situations they know little about, while analytic techniques give them the impression that they can tackle any problem—no in-depth experience required. »

« A decade after its publication in 1990, I looked at a book called Inside the Harvard Business School by David Ewing, long an insider… The book listed 19 Harvard alumni who “had made it to the top”—the school’s superstars as of 1990. »

« So Joseph Lampel and I studied the post-1990 records of all 19. How did they do? In a word, badly. A majority, 10, seemed clearly to have failed, meaning that their company went bankrupt, they were forced out of the CEO chair, a major merger backfired, and so on. The performance of another 4 we found to be questionable. Some of these 14 CEOs built up or turned around businesses, prominently and dramatically, only to see them weaken or collapse just as dramatically. »

« We hardly hid these results: an initial version appeared in a 2001 Fortune magazine article and a later version in my book Managers not MBAs (2004, pp 111-119), which has sold 90,000 copies (presumably to some people who read it). You might think that this would have set off alarm bells, or at least evoked a bit of curiosity. That they do not suggests as much about business schools as do these results about their graduates. »

« MBA programs do well in training for the business functions, such as finance and marketing, if not for management. So why do they persist in promoting this education for management, which, according to mounting evidence, produces so much mismanagement? The answer is unfortunately obvious: with so many of their graduates getting to the “top”, why change? But there is another answer that is also becoming obvious: because at this top, too many of their graduates are corrupting the economy. »


Henry Mintzberg is the author of:

Managers Not MBAs (2004 – 500 pages)

Simply Managing: What Managers Do – and Can Do Better (2013 – 208 pages)

The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (2013 – 480 pages)

Bedtime Stories for Managers (2019 – 200 pages)

Understanding Organizations…Finally! (2023)

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