Most business schools, especially those in the UK, tend to focus on theory, rather than application. There’s no real effort to help students test out their ideas and gain real-world skills. Students are taught to read management journals, take part in global events that affect the organization, and read company histories and current affairs – all in the hope that one day they might be able to apply the knowledge to a real life situation. But what they often don’t realise is that the theory they learn about in the classrooms is rarely put into practice.
The field of business administration is vast, and it encompasses many sub-specialties within business administration. Each sub-specialty requires a different type of coursework. Taking courses in business administration, therefore, requires students to have a thorough knowledge of all the subjects involved. One of the most important aspects of the course-work for a PhD in Business Administration in the UK is learning how to prepare for the examinations that come after this.
All degree courses start with a brief introduction to the discipline, followed by lectures on basic management skills. All students in business schools need to know how to conduct basic management research, and they will need to write a thesis according to their own specific topic. After completing their degree, students will have to submit their dissertation to the end of their training program. It is during the dissertation that graduate students will need to write a narrative explanation of their findings – called a case study – as well as supplying supporting documentation, including cite sources.
All business administration PhD candidates will need to complete a dissertation. Many PhD candidates are required to undertake a case study; however, some may be asked to carry out independent research. Writing a case study is the ideal way to learn how to organise and conduct an independent research project. Master’s level and PhD candidates in business administration should also opt to carry out a period of practical experience. This can take the form of a one-week internship with a local business, or as a member of a management consultative group, where they will meet a range of other professionals.
The importance of proof-based management is underlined by the British government. As part of its wider attempt to promote evidence-based decision-making, the UK’s Cabinet Office has formulated a strategy to support evidence-based management. Part of this strategy is encouraging the creation of bodies that will compile evidence and make available to it to decision makers. Examples of such bodies are the Office of Credit Analysis and the Financial Services Authority. Such bodies have a wide range of responsibilities, including providing the service of collecting and presenting information relevant to management and executives. They also work with companies to create frameworks for how they will apply their evidence-based management policies.
Expert opinion is also very valuable when it comes to developing managerial decision-making skills. An executive coach can use his or her expertise to listen to the concerns of managers and other leaders within an organization. They can suggest ways to improve the way managers communicate with employees, find ways to motivate them, and enhance their effectiveness at work. These skills are essential to running a productive and successful business. For example, by using real-life case studies to evaluate the performance of a team of executives, business coaches can show executives how to overcome minor obstacles.
Another area of focus for MBA graduates is organizational change. While most people associate planning and organizing with senior management, many organizations have a mixed management/directors combination, with a number of mid-level managers who plan and organize most of the day-to-day activities of the organization. These managers can be very clued-up in terms of how to handle problems, but not so good at managing complicated issues that require broad decision-making skills. A good executive coach can help these directors by providing practical advice on creating a transition plan between themselves and their existing direct supervisors, as well as helping them to build a foundation for leadership skills and decision-making.