I have had the pleasure of directing the Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence (MSMOE) program at Saint Vincent for the past two years. I am very proud of our students, faculty and the program in general. Over the past several months, our students and faculty have published or submitted research for consideration in some of the field’s top journals and conferences, we have had exceptional job placements for our students and graduates and the program was recently named as a “Top 50 Best Value Master’s in Management” program. We’ve grown enrollment in the program and have also provided students with immersive experiences such as overseas opportunities, a partnership with the University of Kentucky’s True Lean Center in its College of Engineering that can lead to certification, independent studies so that students can choose the direction of their learning and flexible hybrid learning options.
Along with the success of the program and its students, I get a lot of questions regarding the program. Two major ones are:
- Why does Saint Vincent offer an MSMOE instead of an MBA and what is the difference between these two degrees?
- What even is Operational Excellence?
Since I hear these questions a lot, I often reflect on them. For this blog, I thought it might be useful to write my current thoughts on this first question and to share them with you. The second question will be answered in my next blog.
The MBA (which stands for Master’s in Business Administration) is a very common and practical graduate business degree. Saint Vincent does not offer this degree, which is not to say that this degree is not useful. In fact, the opposite is true! I personally have an MBA and I learned a lot through my studies for this degree. The truth is that there are many other colleges and universities in the area that have already offered fantastic MBA programs for a long time. As SVC is a relative newcomer to graduate education (when considering some of the other area schools), it doesn’t make sense for us to offer this degree when so many other good ones exist. The competition is already pretty stiff.
The MSMOE, on the other hand, was started at Saint Vincent because Dr. Richard Kunkle (the director of the program at the time) and the McKenna School identified a strong need in graduate business education from local and regional organizations. This need, though, was very specific. Organizations needed their managers and employees to know more about continuous improvement, problem solving and waste reduction – three cornerstones of what would become the MSMOE program. As such, our MSMOE program developed in response to needs of the local community.
It should be noted, then, how much this approach differs from an MBA. Though valuable, an MBA is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to graduate business education. The MBA was originally designed for students who had a limited organizational background (meaning that they did not have an undergraduate degree in business, had never had any formal or informal leadership roles, and/or had limited experience working with others). As such, MBAs tend to draw on a breadth of business disciplines including (but not limited to) marketing, economics, law, finance, accounting, etc.
This generalist approach was not what Saint Vincent’s community was asking for when the MSMOE was founded. Many of the students who attend the MSMOE program already have some organizational background, whether from their undergraduate studies or from working. Some of our students don’t have this background but still want to study in the MSMOE program due to its focus. Though a niche focus, and one that certainly may not appeal to all potential students looking for a graduate business degree, this program takes academically supported management techniques and combines them with real-world examples of continuous improvement tools. Though we touch on multiple business disciplines, our focus is much more fixed on crucial management concepts. We believe that, to be an effective manager-leader in an organization, one needs to truly be able to understand the people, processes and organizational factors that impact the overall success of the enterprise. Such an approach harkens to esteemed management scholar Henry Mintzberg’s thoughts in “Managers not MBAs” (2005). In his book, Mintzberg suggests that MBA programs do a disservice to would-be leaders because they teach students to be more like analysts rather than to truly understand how to be effective positive change agents in their organization. We like to think that our focus allows our students to be effective positive change agents – and the organizations that they work for seem to agree with our belief.
So, what do you think? Do you believe that a focused approach to graduate business education might be helpful to individuals in your organization? I’m always interested to hear your thoughts! Email me at email@example.com or get in touch with me through Facebook (www.facebook.com/urickmj) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-urick/a3/775/5b/).
Dr. Michael J. Urick
Mintzberg, H. 2005. Managers not MBAs. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: San Francisco, CA.