Are MBAs nothing more than Barbies and Kens in business look?
MBA News Barbara Barkhausen / 06-11-2012
Thomas Sattelberger, former Chief Human Resources Officer and a Member of the Management Board of German telecommunications provider Deutsche Telecom, has always been very outspoken about his opinion on MBA graduates. He calls them “Barbies and Kens in business look” and “self-proclaimed high potentials” whose goal it is to solely increase their power and bank account. In a recent interview for the German online portal “Spiegel Online” he said that whoever thought a U.S. American or British MBA degree would give him a career in every German company, had gambled away. He instead would search for talents from different backgrounds and with knowledge of sociology, psychology or history. He said: “Education, reliability and sustainable economic management are more important than shareholder value.” Sattelberger has recently taken on the role of human resources ambassador for the initiative New Quality of Work (INQA) where he will design solutions, recommendations and bills in relation to the work field - a position that will give him more opportunities to realize his ideas about education and management.
Sattelberger is clearly playing the role of the devil’s advocate – something that is precious to have as it instils dialogue and eventually new ways and ideas. MBA Channel has spoken to four German business schools about his views, the Barbie and Ken image, differences in MBA education between the U.S., the UK and Germany and the German competencies they need to teach to make a difference for Europe’s economic powerhouse.
Reading Mr Sattelberger’s opinion - what do you think? Do you agree with his view?
Felix Müller, Director Henley Business School Deutschland, Frankfurt
Mr Sattelberger has always been very provocative in his statements which helped him getting heard and stimulating the debate around MBA education. I appreciate this since the MBA and its benefits are still quite far away from being understood. You will find all types of personalities among MBA graduates and some may show the behaviours described by Mr Sattelberger. For us at Henley Business School, these behaviours are clearly against our beliefs and what we have been teaching our students in the past 66 years: We are strong proponents of responsible management and leadership and we pride ourselves by the fact that Mr Sattelberger’s former company Deutsche Telekom is working with Henley on three professional programmes developing leaders and managers supporting the transformation skills Deutsche Telekom requires.
US companies – and the US culture in general - are much more capital market driven than European ones and this also shows in the MBA programmes. If we like it or not, publicly listed and globally active companies like Deutsche Telekom have to understand this way of thinking and making business and an American MBA helps you in doing so, following the idea of “know your enemy well!”.
Are MBA graduates Barbies and Kens in business look that are only after power and money?
Heidrun Hoffmann, Senior Program Manager, MBA Program, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, Vallendar, Germany
The WHU answers this question with a clear No. The application process for the MBA programme encompasses an extensive application form, a minimum of one reference and the TOEFL- and GMAT-tests (TOEFL: min. 100; GMAT: mind. 600). Apart from these formal criteria we lead two personal interviews with applicants where we pay attention to personality, social competency and the ability to work in a team. Our method of teaching and learning is based on interaction and group dynamic, Barbies and Kens would be outcasts. That’s something we try to rule out during the application and enrolment process.
Mr Sattelberger is especially critical towards MBA graduates from U.S. American or British MBA programmes. Is there a big difference between MBA graduates from these countries and Germany for example?
Professor Dr Udo Steffens, President of the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management
Each school has, of course, its own spirit or ethos which is reflected in the curricula or its way of teaching. Through site visits, MBA students will experience the distinct local or national management culture of their school’s home country. The US corporate culture is highly shareholder-value driven. In Germany, on the contrary, workers’ participation has led to a consensus-oriented corporate culture. All this is echoed in the MBA programmes and has an impact on MBA graduates. Ger-man companies across all industries recruit from us. Our graduates work in management consulting, IT and the manufacturing industry, banking and finance, for NGOs and development banks. We are extremely proud that we also see more and more entrepreneurs among our students and graduates. Thus, we initiated our own venture capital fund. Here, Frankfurt School Family members can seek advice as well as financial resources to start their own business.
As the American and European markets differ in quite a few aspects - which competencies do you teach especially for the German market for example?
Volker Stößel, Head of Communication, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management
We are teaching a General Management approach added by soft skill and entrepreneurship classes. Our MBA education aims at preparing the students to later on work in different functions for national as well as international companies or to set up their own business. Besides the official curriculum we offer German language courses to our students. Additionally, international students have the opportunity to experience the German corporate culture by taking so called field projects. In such a consultancy project up to four students solve real-life questions posed by companies. During the field projects the MBA students are involved into the culture and processes of the companies.
Link to Thomas Sattelberger’s interview on Spiegel Online