Businesses revolve around two complementary skill sets: Implementation and Enabling.
Implementors are the people who get things done. They create, shape, cut, refine, prototype, iterate, program, design, manufacture, and ship. They are the craftsmen that create something worth selling.
Enablers are the people who help the implementors focus on implementing. They make sure all of the implementors are working towards the same end result and deal with things that take time away from creating. They are the leaders, managers, and assistants who keep the business side of things running.
Having a mix of implementors and enablers is a very good thing. Implementors can exist without enablers, but they won’t be very efficient. It’s hard to do a good job creating something when you have to worry about calculating payroll taxes. Enablers can’t exist without implementors, since no business can exist for long without something to sell. Leadership and management are worthless without a team of people creating something.
The prevailing business culture seems to emphasize enabling over leading, and that’s a shame. The highly-visible CEO and executive team gets the glory, while the people who get things done behind the scenes are largely forgotten, both in glory and pay. That’s a travesty – neither could exist without the other.
3 Things to Keep In Mind If You’re an Implementor
- Enablers have a difficult job – getting everyone on the same page and working in the right direction is as tough and challenging as the work you do. Remember to express your appreciation for the work they do.
- The hallmark of a good enabler is that they work to make things easier for you, not harder. The best enablers will keep you in the loop and shield you from anything not related to implementing effectively. Pay attention to who is really good at enabling, and find a way to work with them.
- Don’t assume your enabler is your superior, even if they’re your boss. They need you, and they know it. They also love it when you make their life easier. Work as a team of equals, and you’ll get a lot accomplished.
3 Things to Keep in Mind if You’re an Enabler
- Your job is to make the lives of your implementors as easy as possible. Do everything you can do to make it easy for them to focus on their job. Eliminate distractions, guesswork, politics, and random tasks as completely as you can.
- Set the direction clearly, then get out of the way. As Peter Drucker once said: “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” Micromanagement doesn’t help – it gets in the way of getting things done.
- Cheerleading is an important part of the job. Everyone loves to be appreciated, including your team. Make time to encourage people and express your appreciation for the work they do. Kind words carry a lot of weight.
Where Do You Fit? Do you consider yourself more of an implementor or enabler? Why?
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Luckily for these people, many corporations are now offering just such instruction: umbrella training programs that teach employees in every department of every vocation everything they need to know to succeed in their branch of business. Some attendees are even lucky enough to graduate into programs that will teach them to succeed in other branches of business. But mostly, these programs — generally called “corporate universities” — exist to nurture and hone the skills of a company’s employees so that they are superlatively qualified to work for that company. And, hopefully, no other company. Ever.
Don’t let the fancy name fool you. Corporate universities are not accredited institutions. In fact, they don’t have to adhere to any particular set of standards or qualifications. It is simply a term used by the companies that institute such training programs in order to make it seem more official and beneficial. Of course, that’s not to say that attendees of the various corporate universities don’t receive excellent instruction. Many really do learn everything they need to know for a successful career, and a fair few go on to management programs where they learn to educate the employees of tomorrow. Below are a number of corporate universities that run the gamut of methods and opportunities.
1. Hamburger University
This vaunted institution is McDonald’s Corporation’s exclusive training facility, and the first global training center in the whole restaurant industry. Its students — carefully chosen candidates from among McDonald’s most dynamic employees — receive an unparalleled education on the inner workings of the McDonald’s business.
Founded in 1961 by Fred Turner (former senior chairman and franchise founder Ray Kroc’s first grillman), Hamburger University was originally run out of the basement of a McDonald’s restaurant in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. There McDonald’s employees would gather to learn such company secrets as how to market a new product, how to cook the perfect burger, and what exactly goes into that “special sauce” on the Big Mac.
Today, Hamburger University sits on an 80-acre campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, another suburb of Chicago, and is home to three kitchen labs, thirteen regular classrooms, twelve interactive team education rooms, and an auditorium that seats 300. Five thousand students attend Hamburger University each year (though not all of them attend in an actual, physical sense), all of them employees of the McDonald’s Corporation. Matriculants can expect to receive instruction through a combination of classroom instruction, e-learning programs, hands-on lab activities, and interactive learning scenarios. The focus these days has shifted almost entirely to teaching employees how to handle customers and how to run the restaurants, rather than wasting any time on understanding or improving the food.
The curriculum at Hamburger University encompasses a number of different programs, each of which is carefully designed to train the attendee in the McCareer of his or her choice. There are programs for Crew Development (support staff), Shift Management and Systems Management (restaurant managers), Executive Development (future leaders of the McDonald’s Corporation), and Mid-Management (mid-management). All McDonald’s restaurant employees receive 32 hours of on-site and e- training during their first month. However, only those who choose to enter one of the aforementioned full training programs have the opportunity to earn a McDegree, which more or less fully prepares them for a career in the McBusiness.
This video from CNN Money takes viewers inside Hamburger University, where they’re lucky enough to work with fake food:
2. Motorola University
Motorola University is telecommunications giant Motorola’s Six Sigma certification program. As the creator of the Six Sigma methodology, there is no company more qualified to teach its tenets than Motorola. The program is run entirely by the terrifyingly-named Six Sigma Master Black Belts, all of whom have themselves been trained at Motorola University.
In order to understand the curriculum at Motorola University, one must first understand what the Six Sigma methodology is all about. In order to do that, one must devote oneself to the study of a mind-bendingly complicated mass of business-ese that includes phrases like “process capability” and acronyms such as DPMO (defects per million opportunities). Suffice it to say that Motorola University offers a number of training and education programs that teach Six Sigma practices in five different areas of management called institutes: Leadership and Management, Quality, Go-To-Market, Supply Chain, and Engineering.
Motorola University (or MU) has nine training facilities in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. MU was established at Motorola headquarters in 1974 to offer additional training and refresher courses to Motorola employees. In 1986, when Six Sigma was invented, MU changed its focus to train employees in the Six Sigma methodology. Recognizing that having an entire corporation full of Master Black Belts was no use if nobody outside the company had any idea what that meant, MU opened up its doors to clients and then the general public between 2002 and 2005. Motorola University now offers customized training programs to any number of people who might one day aspire to the actual Six Sigma certification, including “soft skill training” for college students. Presumably, Motorola High School and Six Sigma Day Care Center will be on their way soon.
This video explains Motorola’s motivation to invent Six Sigma, without going into any of the complex names and formulas that make it all work:
3. Apple University
Apple University, Apple Inc.’s corporate education institution, was launched in early 2009— a relative newcomer (and definite latecomer) to the corporate education scene. Running the project is Joel Podolny, previously the head of the Yale School of Management and a former teacher at Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business. From this one might surmise that Apple University focuses on the business end of the, well, business.
Like everything else ever produced by Apple Inc., the details of the goings-on at Apple University are a well-kept secret. Neither the location nor the purpose of this (probably cutting-edge) facility have been disclosed to the general public. Speculation abounds as to whether the university exists to train and educate existing employees in order to minimize turnover; to find and foster new talent, or to groom a new generation of arrogant but preternaturally culture-savvy nerds in the hopes that a worthy successor to Steve Jobs will emerge. Why keep it a secret? Perhaps it’s just Apple Inc.’s first instinct to keep everything under wraps. Maybe we’ll find out more when Apple is good and ready to tell us — probably in the form of an extremely sleek and mesmerizing commercial that, in retrospect, tells us much less than we thought it had.
4. The Global Education Center
The world’s largest corporate university is owned and operated by Infosys, the India-based information technology behemoth. Infosys initially established its training facility in 2005 with the goal of creating a workforce ideally suited to the company’s needs. It has since expanded in every direction.
The Global Education Center (GEC) is located in Mysore, India, on a 337-acre campus that is even now undergoing further expansion. The GEC has a total of 147 classrooms, 42 conference rooms, 485 faculty rooms, a cyber café, and two libraries housing approximately 140,000 volumes. Up to 15,000 students at a time can be educated within the many walls of this vast institution
Students of the Global Education Center study for six months before applying for a position at Infosys. The competition for jobs at the company is extremely fierce: 1.3 million apply each year, only 1 percent of whom are hired. Compare those numbers against those of another famously competitive institution, Harvard University, where approximately 23,000 people apply for admission each year, and a comparatively whopping 8 percent are accepted. Lucky, then, for the fortunate few who can look forward to a six-month training period and a lifetime of outsourced IT services projects at Infosys.
This video offers an inside look at the Global Education Center’s new facilities, and all the wondrous IT education to be had there:
5. Disney University
The Walt Disney Company has built its reputation on quality, innovation, and creativity in family entertainment (and merchandising). Nowhere are these values upheld more strongly or proudly than at Disney University, Disney’s professional development and training establishment. Uncle Walt himself first founded Disney University after he opened the first Disneyland theme park in California — and realized that nobody who worked there quite met his rigorous and magical standards. Established in the early 1960s, it is the world’s oldest corporate university.
All Disney employees (or “cast members” as they are called) attend a one-and-a-half day training program at Disney University, now located on the grounds of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This program, called “Traditions,” emphasizes the importance of the legacy of the Disney brand and includes a tutorial in the history of Disney — both the man and the company — as well as training in job-specific tasks like working the cash registers, comforting lost and/or irate children, and convincing kids of all ages that a little bit of that Disney magic can go home with them in the form of a million different plush or plastic toys.
Select members of the 42,000 strong Disney cast go on to more rigorous training courses at Disney University in such magical areas as leadership development, personal development, professional development, and instructional design. Further instruction is also available to cast members who aspire to leave the cast and join the slightly less magical (but significantly quieter and more lucrative) world of leadership. Training for frontline supervisors and mid-to-upper management is broadcast via satellite all over the world through Mobile Training Units, many of which are affiliated with some of America’s top leading business schools.
Here is a short video with a behind the scenes look at University Disney:
Interviews for HBS’s Round 2 will be conducted between February 15th and March 9th. In addition to on the HBS campus, interviews will be conducted in London, Paris, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, San Francisco, Palo Alto and New York. Skype interviews may also be an option for candidates located outside the United States who are unable to travel, Leopold added. The email containing the interview invitation will provide full details about the process.
In an attempt at greater transparency, Leopold also shared the pattern of interview invitation volume in Round 1, noting that Round 2 won’t be identical, but that she thinks it will be “directionally similar.” In the first round, 750 invitations were sent out as part of the first wave of invitations, 80 as part of the second and 25 as part of the third and final wave.
To all those waiting anxiously for news from HBS, best of luck! To those who receive a coveted invitation, don’t miss Clear Admit’s HBS Interview Guide, which provides school-specific strategies for preparing, details on how the adcom weighs the interview relative to other components of the application, first-hand interview accounts and more. And once interviews begin, remember that you can share your experience and learn from those of others on the Clear Admit Wiki.
Many readers ask me why I don’t write more about management. Here’s why: learning business fundamentals is more important to your long-term success. Management study is a great complement to strong business skills, but it can’t replace them.
Business and Management are not the same thing. If you follow the business media and the business academic world, it’s easy to get the impression that management is what business practice is all about. It’s not: business and management are two separate but complementary skills. Personally, I choose to focus on teaching business, which is more essential and better suits my interests and skills.
Business is fundamentally about creating and delivering value to paying customers. Management is about organizing a group of people to accomplish a common objective. Management is often an important part of most businesses, but by no means is it the most important part.
There’s a clear distinction between people who actually get things done and people who help other people get things done (see Are You an Implementor or an Enabler?). Businesses can (and do) exist without managers. Businesses can’t exist without the people who actually create and deliver value to paying customers.
Management as Politics
Management has more in common with politics than it does business practice. That’s not a bad thing: skills that help you discover what the people you interact with actually want, help you influence them, and help you organize them around a common goal are incredibly valuable.
Large businesses inevitably suffer from what I call “communication overhead” – as an organization grows, every individual in it must spent a greater percentage of their available time communicating enough with others just to stay on the same page, leaving less time for actual productive work. Developing your skills as a leader and standard-bearer is useful in these situations, since without some level of organization, it would be easy for everyone to spend so much time communicating with each other without completing any tangibly productive work. That’s why effective managers are in high demand in large companies.
There’s a catch, however: without business skills, it’s possible to organize and lead a group of people towards the accomplishment of the wrong objectives. Unless certain fundamental objectives are achieved, the business will fail. Without a firm understanding what’s actually important to a business and what’s not, even the most effective manager can lead the most talented and disciplined team to ruin.
What Management Study Won’t Teach You
Here’s what the study of management won’t teach you:
- How to discover what people want to buy.
- How to create tangible value people are willing to pay for.
- How to find and communicate with potential customers.
- How to complete a profitable transaction.
- How to manage your business’ cash flow.
- How to set up useful processes and systems.
Whether you’re a manager or not, if you want to succeed in a business setting, you need to know how to do these things well. Otherwise, you risk wasting good work and valuable resources pursuing the wrong objectives. Without creating and delivering real value to real paying customers, a business will inevitably fail.
Where (and When) to Hone Your Management Skills
If you want to hone your management skills, websites like Manager Tools are fantastic – they’ll teach you what to do and why it works. If you have management responsibilities (or want to have them someday), I highly recommend spending time learning management techniques.
Before you focus on management, however, it pays to spend time ensuring your business skills are solid. After spending time with the Personal MBA Business Crash Course, reading the books on the Personal MBA reading list, and studying other sources of business information, you’ll be much better prepared to lead your team to the objectives that will really make a difference.
(Photo credit: svilen001 at sxc.hu.)
1) What are background checks? Background checks involve the verification of information that a candidate has provided in his or her MBA applications. Although the process varies from school to school, it usually includes checking that an applicant attended the undergraduate (or graduate) school(s) that he or she claims to have attended, received the grades indicated and earned the GMAT score reported. It also involves the verification of the candidate’s employment history, job titles, starting and ending dates and salary/bonus information. Finally, some background checks involve contacting recommenders to verify their support and confirming applicant involvement in community activities.
2) Do all schools conduct background checks? When do they do this? How do they have time? Many of the leading MBA programs like to verify the information that has been provided by applicants. This is typically done only for those applicants who are admitted, since there is no sense in expending resources to verify information for applicants who do not make the cut. Most background checks occur in the spring – after decisions for most rounds have been released and students begin sending in their deposits. In many cases, the schools outsource this function to a professional risk consulting firm like Kroll.
3) Why bother with background checks? Don’t the schools trust me? The purpose of background checking is to protect all stakeholders of the MBA program (students, faculty, staff, alumni) from those who would falsify their backgrounds to gain an unfair advantage in the admissions process. Some schools opt to investigate the backgrounds of a relatively small sample of randomly selected admits, hoping that the mere possibility of a check will give applicants incentive to be as honest as possible. In a way, this measure therefore serves to increase the adcom’s trust in its applicants.
4) What about very minor discrepancies? It’s natural for admitted applicants to get anxious at this point in the process, wondering whether their offer of admission might be rescinded if, for instance, the “start date” for an old job is one week earlier than the start date that HR reports during the background check. The good news is that most schools report any discrepancies back to the applicant and give them a chance to explain a plausible mistake. Having said that, it of course makes sense to do your best to verify all of your information before applying to school, so that you can be certain that the data you report is accurate. Should any potential issues come to mind after submitting, you might consider preemptively contacting the adcom if the error is serious enough.
5) Won’t the background checking process alert my employer to the fact that I am applying to b-school? Since the process typically takes place long after you’ve been admitted, this ideally won’t be an issue, as most applicants give their employers ample notice and take some time off before school. Having said that, the schools still try to conduct the checks in a discrete fashion, consulting with your HR department to verify your dates of employment and salary – but not necessarily revealing that you are heading to business school.
6) How can I ensure a smooth background check? While the obvious answer is to be honest in your applications, it’s also important that you don’t fudge anything out of laziness (a common occurrence). Dig up those old W-2 forms or check with former employers in order to present the committee with the most accurate information you can.
Good luck to everyone anxiously awaiting word from their R1 schools and, of course, those targeting R2 as well!
“If you ask business executives how important organizational and brand reputation are to their jobs, they are likely to answer ‘extremely,’” Anthony D’Angelo, co-chair of PRSA’s MBA Initiative, said in a statement. “The difficulty is that if you ask them how much formal education – however basic – they’ve had in these disciplines, the answer usually falls between very little and a blank stare.”
An October survey of 204 senior executives conducted by Kelton Research and funded by the MWW Group, revealed that only 4 in 10 senior executives find the skill sets of recently hired MBA graduates to be extremely strong in terms of building a protection a company’s reputation and credibility. Nine out of 10 executives surveyed said that executives lack training in core communication disciplines. And 93 percent believe that PR is just as important to their companies as other forms of communication such as advertising and marketing.
Together with Argenti, PRSA has created a turn-key program based on three decades of Argenti’s work in the area. In the hopes of increasing adoption by the nation’s MBA programs, the course incorporates flexible full-semester, “mini-mester” and seminar formats. Tuck will take part in a pilot program integrating the new course into its MBA program for the fall 2012 semester. PRSA is currently in the process of identifying four additional to take part in the pilot and hopes to expand the initiative nationwide in 2013.
Argenti is glad Tuck is taking the lead in this initiative. “”It’s exciting to think of Tuck’s enduring and successful approach to corporate communication getting recognition and acceptance in the wider business school community,” he said in a statement.
For more on the PRSA MBA Initiative, click here.