Thursday, December 24, 2009

Links ...

  1. Noam Scheiber in New Republic: Upper Mismanagement. "Why can't Americans make things? Two words: business school. "

    The business schools had their own incentives to channel students into high-paying fields like finance, thanks to the rising importance of school rankings, which heavily weighted starting salaries. The career offices at places like Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago institutionalized the process—for example, by making it easier for Wall Street outfits and consulting firms to recruit on campus. A recent Harvard Business School case study about General Electric shows that the company had so much trouble competing for MBAs that it decided to woo top graduates from non-elite schools rather than settle for elite-school graduates in the bottom half or bottom quarter of their classes.

    No surprise then that, over time, the faculty and curriculum at the Harvards and Stanfords of the world began to evolve. “If you look at the distribution of faculty at leading business schools,” says Khurana, “they’re mostly in finance. … Business schools are responsive to changes in the external environment.” Which meant that, even if a student aspired to become a top operations man (or woman) at a big industrial company, the infrastructure to teach him didn’t really exist.

  2. Scott Berkun: Everything is a Project, Even This.

    I wrote awhile ago about why project managers get no respect, and that’s because people who make a big deal out of the project-manageryness of their work, as opposed to the domain of the things they make (homes, software, films, cookies) come off as a kind of weenie, a pm-weenie if you will. They appear to be people who are more interested in schedules, budgets and methods than the results those tools help achieve, which is kind of weird. It’s like the director of a bad movie who talks only about his fancy zoom lenses, or that the film came in under-budget. They miss the point.

    But the best project managers, including those people who do lead or manage things yet never use the pm title, somehow know instinctively that everything is a project. They know there needs to be a driving force of thinking, a constant source of social energy, a list or a table or a spreadsheet, that makes it easier for everyone to push their own small decisions forward, increasing the odds with every single effort that the results will be good.

  3. Robin Marantz Henig in NYTimes -- Books of the Times : A Hospital How-To Guide That Mother Would Love -- "Atul Gawande’s provocative new book explains how a technique used by pilots — the simple checklist — can dramatically reduce patients’ deaths in hospitals." [The book appears to be an expanded version of Gawande's New Yorker article in 2007].

    In 2001 Dr. Pronovost borrowed a concept from the aviation industry: a checklist, the kind that pilots use to clear their planes for takeoff. In an experiment Dr. Pronovost used the checklist strategy to attack just one common problem in the I.C.U., infections in patients with central intravenous lines (catheters that deliver medications or fluids directly into a major vein). Central lines can be breeding grounds for pathogens; in the Hopkins I.C.U. at the time, about one line in nine became infected, increasing the likelihood of prolonged illness, further surgery or death.

    Dr. Pronovost wrote down the five things that doctors needed to do when inserting central lines to avoid subsequent infection: wash hands with soap; clean the patient’s skin with chlorhexidine antiseptic; cover the patient’s entire body with sterile drapes; wear a mask, hat, sterile gown and gloves; and put a sterile dressing over the insertion site after the line was in.


  1. truti said...

    Noam Schreiber's article is not a day too soon. Unfortunately during times of crises like this one, everyone criticises the vapid and banal quality of MBA programs. But once the good times begin it is back to the old ways. Suits (MBAs) have been running the US economy into the ground since decades and destroyed entire industries, auto, consumer electronics, pharma and so on. The MBA in the US is something like our IAS.

  2. Anonymous said...

    At least the US once made things and can probably go back to doing that if they need to. In our country we seem to have gone from the pre-industrial age to the post-industrial make-nothing MBA-run economy without passing through the stage of manufacturing things. And it's far worse in some sense since the MBA and the financial industry sucks up a good part of the trained engineers.