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Chicago University Graduate School of Business

Bill Kooser - Associate Dean for Executive MBA Programs
Yes, the business world is changing rapidly, but that's really nothing new - it has regularly gone through periods of rapid change. It is the nature of the change that has an impact on the skills and experience necessary to be an effective manager.
1. The (business) world is changing rapidly. Does globalization mean that we need a new kind of "global" manager?

Yes, the business world is changing rapidly, but that's really nothing new - it has regularly gone through periods of rapid change. It is the nature of the change that has an impact on the skills and experience necessary to be an effective manager. I would argue that globalization is just one of many changes that today's managers need to deal with. Three other key drivers of change are technology, industry consolidation, and deregulation/privatization. Today's managers may be called upon to deal with any or all of these issues, depending on their industry.

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The issue, therefore, is not whether all companies and industries need "global" managers, but rather, what type of managerial skills are necessary for a particular company and industry at this particular point in time. For many, (perhaps most) it will be increased international or global expertise. For some companies, on the other hand, the ability to deal with rapidly changing technology may take precedence over an international bent.

In every case, however, companies need managers and leaders who are able to accurately assess their companies and industries and anticipate what the future might hold. They need be able to recognize opportunity and be able to act quickly to capitalize on it. Finally, they need to be able to create an environment that supports quick action, effective decision making, and strategic thinking. Our educational approach at the University of Chicago has been to help our students develop these fundamental skills and put them into practice.

2. If so, what does he look like? Is the manager of the future a sort of global nomad, working with his laptop in hotel rooms and airport lounges, living some years at one place on the earth, some years at another?

Clearly there is a need for global skills among today's business leaders. International growth, cross border mergers, increasing global competition, and improved communication technologies mean that no company is unaffected by international issues. Whether competitive pressure, opportunities for new markets, potential partners or suppliers, even the smallest company can benefit from an increased understanding of global business issues.

I believe, however, that there is no single model for the "global" manager. The specific abilities, experiences, and work styles of the global manager will differ depending on the industry, the company's strategy, and the role of the manager him or herself. The global skills and management style needed by the head of a software development firm with developers working in 6 locations around the globe will be very different from that of a CEO of a traditional manufacturer with a network of international assembly plants. The CEO will likely have a different style from the head of an international operating unit.

There will undoubtedly be those managers who spend much of their time in hotel rooms connected to their companies mainly through email. There are others who will take on international assignments for years at a time - perhaps even becoming permanent expatriates. There will also be those who manage in a much more traditional sense, with a primary office, but with frequent trips to visit international locations. In my view, no single model will dominate or define the "true" global manager.

3. What are the qualifications of the Manager of Tomorrow? His talents, language skills etc.?

Effective managers in a global environment will have a set of key characteristics and skills. Probably the most important of these is adaptability. Managers of global enterprises need to be able to ascertain differences in approach, culture, lifestyle and strategy and be able to work with those differences to accomplish the goals of the organization. Managers who insist on doing it "the way we've always done it" won't last.

Effective global managers also need a strong grasp on the fundamentals of business. Even as they make adjustments for differences across borders, they need to be able to draw on some fundamental "truths" about economics, consumer behavior, data analysis, etc. By mastering these fundamental skills, global managers can ensure that all operations are evaluated and decisions made in a consistent, rigorous fashion. This, in turn, allows the manager to focus attention on those areas of culture, policy, and regulation that are truly different. By developing a solid foundation in the "basics" managers can be free to innovate where necessary. That is why our program at the University of Chicago GSB focuses on these fundamentals.

These managers also need to have an innate interest in learning and trying new things. The international experience is typically one of developing new skills, challenging old beliefs, and adapting to new experiences. Those that are open to these ideas and even embrace them, will be much more likely to develop the understanding necessary to manage well in the new environment. Antipathy toward new experiences will only lead to disappointment, unhappiness and frustration.

Finally, global managers need to recognize that no one individual can know everything about every country in which the company operates. Delegation and the ability to attract outstanding talent to the organization is a must. Global managers must be able to trust their subordinates more than ever before. Even with the advances of communications technology, the manager on the ground will often make decisions without the direct input from the head office. Without good people in those roles and the ability to delegate both responsibility and authority to them, the global manager will soon burn out and/or lose control of the operation.

4. Will we have a very tiny elite of truly "global" top managers and a more "national" middle management? In other words: Do we tend towards a two-class manager system?

I don't think so. If we do, where will the next generation of global managers come from? I think what we are more likely to see is more of a development process for global managers. This might entail some international exposure early in one's career, perhaps a posting abroad in the middle of the career, and a position within the headquarters as the final step on the career ladder. Again, as I've said before, what the right steps are on this development program will depend on the nature of the industry and the individual's role. There will continue to be those globe-trotting consultants and investment bankers who live most of their lives in hotel rooms, but I also believe that many of the world's best global managers will spend most of their time at "home". (Home may not be in their country of origin, however). I don't think it is correct to equate "effective global manager" with "constantly traveling manager".

5. As a business school, how do you see your role in shaping the world of tomorrow?

We at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business are committed to helping our students develop the skills and understanding necessary to become effective global managers. First, our educational approach makes sure that they understand the fundamentals of business and know how to apply them in any context. Second, we offer a wide range of opportunities for them to experience international business and develop an affinity for learning about new cultures and business approaches. Through student exchange programs, study tours, our international campuses in Spain and Singapore, and our international coursework, our students have the chance to live abroad and work closely with students and business managers from other cultures. Third, our international campuses and the international nature of our faculty and student body help to highlight global issues in everything we teach. Finally, our approach to education is designed to help our students learn "how to think" not "what to think". We equip them with the tools necessary to ask the right questions, learn from their experiences, gather and analyze data, and make business decisions based on those analyses. In other words, we help them become better at learning from their environment and that is really one of the keys to global success.

About the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business

The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business is at the forefront of bringing a discipline-based approach to the study of business. Chicago GSB is known for its world-renowned faculty, which includes more Nobel Prize winners than any other business school. The GSB is also known for its strength in a number of areas including strategy, finance, entrepreneurship, international business, general management, economics, accounting, marketing and its innovative M.B.A. program which includes campuses in Barcelona, Singapore and Chicago. The school offers seven M.B.A. programs, in addition to executive and corporate non-degree programs, and a Ph.D. in business. Approximately 350 Chicago GSB graduates hold key faculty posts at business schools and universities. More than 50 serve as deans.
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 23.02.2001