Introduction There is always something special about winners. Their lives inspire others to perform. They are die-hard optimists. They like to do exceptional things. They always stand out in a crowd. The high-quality teachers of Management of the top 25 B-Schools in the country have all these characteristics and more.
They are widely respected and keep flying to all corners of the world. They are often visiting Faculty Members in the best of B-Schools abroad. I had served as a member of the research team at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad for close to two years and had seen at close quarters how these teachers equip themselves for the rigorous teaching process at one of the best B-Schools in the world. Hence, my knowledge of the greatness of such teachers is based on my real-world observations in a world-class academic setting. And in the course of my career in the Corporate Sector for over three decades, I was able to understand that teachers in the top non-IIM B-Schools also have similar traits and are extremely competitive in terms of being as good as the IIM teachers.
That said, the best teachers of Management have a particular set of competencies that are characterized by a) An insatiable capability to undertake quality research and consultancy b) Updating of knowledge on a daily basis c) Fourteen-hour work-days d) Encouraging dissent from students, and e) Belief in the case-study method.
An insatiable capability to undertake quality research and consultancy Even in the early eighties when I was employed with the prestigious IIMA, each of the professors had at least one foreign doctorate degree and at least one hundred articles in international refereed journals. Each of them had wide contacts in the industry and were widely sought after for conducting various training programs in the manufacturing units of major companies. In those days, IT had not fully developed. However, the Indian manufacturing sector was where all the action was. The faculty members were experts in their own fields. In particular, the economics department was one that had scholars who were consultants to the World Bank and IMF and were development economists who influenced economic policy in many African countries.
Similar capabilities were observed in the same quantity, quality, and reach at the two fabulous B-schools, the XLRI Jamshedpur and the S.P. Jain School of Global Management Mumbai, in my interactions with them in some conference or the other. Those teachers from the B-schools that are placed in the 50-75 pecking order in terms of overall excellence, need to benchmark themselves against the best-in-class research and play catch up, particularly in the area of the world-class research, which is the missing link. This is not only in academic research but also in terms of action-research, that is, case-studies. In those days, every Faculty Member at the IIMA prepared Indian case-studies that were very comprehensive in scope.
Updating of knowledge on a daily basis Since the teachers were those who would necessarily interact with the cream of students from across the world, they would automatically update their knowledge on every aspect of business and become highly updated; their knowledge to dissent the socio-economic phenomena that are particularly applicable to any business context was particularly too good. It was the early days of the internet. Yet, the economics teachers were thorough with the total details of the concept of disinvestment of Public Sector enterprises, through their own sources and research. This was a hot topic in those days. We had several sessions where the discussions were so complete with graphs and statistics. One now understands that everything is stored in computers and easily taught to students at the IIMA and top B-schools. At the prestigious Indian School of Business Hyderabad, there are professors who have thoroughly researched the functioning of hundreds of Indian family-managed organizations and have often described the "what-if" scenarios in minute detail in so many articles in quality journals.
Fourteen-hour work-daysThe library at the IIMA would close by 11 PM. After the eight hour schedule, it was so common to find Prof.T.V. Rao, the Indian expert on Human Resources Development(HRD), who would walk out of the library exactly at 11 PM. He would be glued to whatever he was reading, for hours on end. . He went on to become one of the best-known HRD experts of all times. He was not alone. He had several peers who extended their hard work even beyond fourteen hours. The Executive Development Programs were ones that extended even after dinner. The quality discussions had several good aspects. While the teachers learned what really happened in the industry, the practitioners had a good idea of what it took to understand many a management concept.
Encouraging dissent from students The teachers at the IIMA were those who never had any egos. They would never ever impose their views on any student. The atmosphere encouraged dissent in every form. Later on in my corporate career, in the dozens of Conferences that I attended, I was able to understand that encouraging dissent was applicable to teachers of other IIMs and the top B-schools, with whom I had interacted. Each of them would seek my opinion, particularly on aspects of the culture of corporate Indian organizations like the TVS group. They would single out the world-class Total Quality Management(TQM) practices of the TVS group companies, as having emerged out of organizational cultures where the pro-active behaviour of workmen and executive staff to do things differently and follow all the basic principles of TQM helped the organizations achieve success. In the course of discussions, they would come up with several examples of similar organizations not only in India but also in the rest of Asia and even in the developed world. This is exactly the kind of value-addition that ordinary mortals cannot think of. Their research would give them that particular edge.
Belief in the case-study method It is one thing to believe in the case-study method. It is yet another to actually prepare hundreds of Indian case-studies. The learning from the case-studies, with any number of "What-if" scenarios emerging from such case-studies, should always be taught to the students, who should be encouraged to study far further than what is taught to them.
This is the exact missing link in most University-affiliated B-schools or departments of Management Studies, where the MBA is just one more degree taught in addition to the many technical courses. The New Education Policy, it is hoped, will, over a period of ten years, reverse this sad state of affairs. The top B-schools also update their case-studies regularly and that makes a big difference. It should be appreciated that institution-building does not happen overnight. It takes decades and not everyone succeeds. For example, in the aftermath of the 2008 global crisis, even IIMA had a dip in revenues, as the industry participation was drastically reduced. The wise professors reportedly went on to do research sponsored by the likes of the Indian Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF. This shift in focus helped the institution to tide over the temporary crisis.
Of late, each and every IIM, including the new ones like the Indian Institute of Management Tiruchirapalli have started the Faculty Development Programs for teachers of MBA colleges and even the arts and science college teachers of commerce. This will probably bridge the gap. However, a lot more needs to be done to motivate Faculty Members from the University-affiliated colleges that conduct the MBA program. Perhaps a very strict regulation that their increments will not be given in the absence of at least two quality papers in international refereed journals every year, will make some difference. At the moment, one does not know the finer details of the New Education Policy. However, when the policy pans out, we will see some drastic improvement in standards, over a ten year period. In the interim, it is high time that these teachers pull up their socks and perform.
Conclusion Given the fact that the Indian and global business environment only needs world-class MBAs who can straight away go there and perform, the bench-marking with the best-in-class, like the Indian School of Business, the IIMs and the top B-schools, is an urgent priority. It is no more a choice.