The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have been the most successful of the Indian efforts to clone and absorb, and even excel over, the Western educational thought. The IIMs are a group of public, autonomous institutes of management education in India. The institute at Calcutta was established first, on November 13, 1961, and was named Indian Institute of Management Calcutta or IIM Calcutta. It was set up in collaboration with the MIT Sloan School of Management, the government of West Bengal, the Ford Foundation and the Indian industry. The institute at Ahmedabad was established in the following month and was named Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. Like MIT Sloan in the case of IIM Calcutta, Harvard Business School played an important role in the initial stages of IIM Ahmedabad. The success of these two premier institutes prompted setting up of more Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) from the 1970s. Today, India has thirteen IIMs. The success of the IIMs triggered the mushrooming of standalone management schools and establishment of management divisions within general and technical educational institutions.
The IIMs offer a wide variety of management courses. They were established with the objectives of providing high quality management education and to assist industry through research and consulting services, and have more than fulfilled the vision and objectives. IIMs are considered to be among the most prestigious and elite business schools in India. Like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) which attract the best school leaving talent through nation-wide Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), the IIMs attract the best graduate talent through their Common Admission Test (CAT). The IIMs primarily offer postgraduate, doctoral and executive education programs. The two-year Post Graduate Program in Management (PGP), offering the Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM), is the flagship program across all IIMs. Some IIMs also offer a one-year Post Graduate Program for experienced executives. Some IIMs offer the Fellow Program in Management (FPM), a doctoral program. The Post Graduate Diploma and Fellowship are considered to be equivalent to MBA and Ph.D., respectively. Many IIMs also offer short-term executive education courses and part-time programs.
Expectations and realities
According to IIM Ahmedabad (IIMA), students admitted to the Post-graduate Program in the past have had scholastic achievements in different disciplines such as arts, commerce, science and professional streams such as medicine, engineering and agriculture. Some of the qualities which characterize past students include high levels of initiative and energy, capacity for hard work, strong task orientation, willingness to learn, and a temperament suitable for teamwork. The PGP classes have had a mix of fresh graduates and persons with work experience. Among the recent PGP students, a significant proportion has had full-time paid work experience of more than six months after their graduation. The influx of experienced graduates into the IIM stream reflects the gap between the expectations developed in fresh students by the IIM education and the experienced maturity levels that most brick and mortar organizations need. The IIMs typically prepare the students to leapfrog over the first executive steps to become managers straightaway. The fundamentals of products, processes and the marketplace are therefore not mastered to the requisite extent by the management graduates. Many times, the intelligence and grasp of the management graduates enables them to overcome the lack of frontline experience. Even so, the gaps between the demands posed by the role intricacy and peer group imbalance in organizations on one hand, and the aspirations fueled by the strategy oriented management education and the initial jumpstart of the career, on the other hand remain high.
Despite this realization and the influx of experienced personnel into IIM studentship, even if the majority is with experience of six years or lower, the challenges of expectation-reality gap and aspiration-delivery gap have not dimmed. The practical circumstances force that, out of the thousands of IIM alumni that join the ranks of industry and business each year, only a few become the most successful entrepreneurs or most effective leaders, managing total enterprises meeting all the benchmarks of true success and effectiveness. In a career, spanning four decades leading to enterprise leadership, so much emphasis is put on just two years of management education at the base of the career, which is subject further to the rollercoaster of organizational dynamics. One way of looking at the elite management education system of India is that the IIMs teach leadership to the unprepared far too early, actually make them managers quite early and let them lose the leadership potential eventually. Given that India’s quest for global economic position requires leadership in multiple domains, clearly time is opportune to define the limits to management education and also explore the next frontier of leadership education.
Early genesis and emerging logic
Despite the adverse image India’s post-independence socialistic polity has, many of the more progressive institutional initiatives of India owe their origin and inspiration to administrative analysis and political wisdom. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were established by the Government of India, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India who believed in scientific and technological self-reliance. The IITs were set up as a group of autonomous engineering and technology-oriented institutes of higher education, declared as “institutions of national importance”. They were created progressively from 1951 to develop a talent base of scientists and engineers, to support the economic and social development of India. Today, India boasts of sixteen IITs. The establishment of the IIMs was also envisioned and initiated by the Indian Government, based on the recommendation of the Planning Commission. India grew rapidly in the 1950s, and in the late 1950s the Commission started facing difficulties in finding suitable managers for the large number of public sector enterprises that were being established in India as a part of its industrial policy. To solve this problem, the Planning Commission in 1959 invited Professor George Robbins of the University of California to help in setting up an All India Institute of Management Studies. Based on his recommendations, the Indian government decided to set up two elite management institutes, Indian Institutes of Management. Calcutta and Ahmedabad.
India today has a civil service cadre of over 20,000, manning the huge all-India governmental and administrative apparatus. These belong primarily to the all-India services and the central services. The all-India services consist of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS). The personnel of these services are allotted state cadres and primarily work with the State Governments. They also serve on deputation to the Central Government. The Indian Administrative Service, with its federal nature, forms the backbone of the delivery of basic services and poverty alleviation programs. The seven central services comprise Indian Audit & Accounts Service (IA&AS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax), Indian Revenue Service (Customs & Central Excise), Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS), Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) and Indian Postal Service (IPoS). The cadre of all these ten services is perhaps insufficient to cater to the needs of the huge 1.3 billion population and their development needs in India.
India has over 3000 central and state ministries and over 650 administrative districts, each of which requires several individual service heads, over 300 major central government owned public sector undertakings (PSUs) and over 5000 state government owned PSUs, and over 100,000 joint stock, public limited and private limited companies, each of which requires multiple corporate officers and enterprise leaders. The leadership pool is supplied by scientists, engineers, professionals, some of them with formal management qualifications; all of them acquired at the starting phase of their careers. Most of the leadership capabilities and competencies are acquired by these officers as they progress through their three to four decade careers. Given that the environmental context, in terms of political, social, demographic, economic, business, and technological trends, changes significantly every five years it is a moot point if the currently available educational structures, including the management capstone education offered and acquired typically in, and by, one’s mid-twenties would be adequate in one’s later half of the career between forty five and sixty five years of age when the leadership impact is expected to be the maximum. There is, typically, a mid-career inflexion point in one’s leadership journey which is completely unattended to in the current educational system.
Breaking the journey
The mid-career point, say the period between forty and forty five years of age (corresponding to fifteen to twenty years of experience) is the inflexion point when typically a mature manager begins to morph into a potential leader. By then, a successful manager would have reached a level of functional mastery and cross-functional capability demonstrated by successful headship of a function, division or a region. What lies ahead is the opportunity to head a business with profit and loss responsibility and later the total corporation. In some cases, the emerging leader would be required to even start up an entirely new business or open up a new region for the corporation. The leadership skills for this transformational journey would be significantly different in terms of developing a business or enterprise vision, formulating a transformation strategy and executing it through a leadership that walks the vision and strategy. The mature manager’s skills of orderly resource management, compliance to established systems and procedures and programmed people management would be necessary but would fall short of the leadership needs. Non-recognition of this inflexion requirement causes managers to continue to act as managers even when they are catapulted to leadership positions.
The answer to this lies in the managers and the companies as well as the civil servants and the governments retooling the mature managerial talent base and transforming it into an emerging leadership talent pool at the above identified mid-career point. The transformation requires the reinforcement of the managerial skills in the new-generation and next-generation contexts and the absorption of what it takes to be a leader in the changing environmental context. For example, the contemporary marketing head must understand the importance of social networking and how it could further change in future and the transformative products and services that are needed to leverage the social networking. Amazon leadership, for example, transformed the industry through electronic book, Kindle and online digital book libraries, leveraging the Internet and telecommunication technologies, and built for itself an industry dominating position. Online music technologies and cloud platforms demonstrate the need for leadership to transform lives through transformed corporations. This transformation requires the mature managers to shed the past partially and take on leadership development fully.
Indian Institutes of Leadership (IILs)
Just as the IITs and IIMs provided a fundamental and lasting breakthrough for India in the scientific, engineering and management education from the 1950s and 1960s, a new network of Indian Institutes of Leadership (IILs) would mark a pioneering transformation in the buildup of leadership development in India. The IILs, like the IITs and IIMs, should be deemed institutes of national importance, and set up as autonomous institutions under the Act of Indian Parliament. The admission to the IILs should be open only to the practicing civil servants or corporate managers in the age group of forty to forty five years, with a corresponding experience of fifteen to twenty years. The admission should be open to mature managers who qualify through a Common Admission Test Customized for Leadership. The admission should also be open to those managers who are sponsored as well as those who reigned from their managerial services, with appropriate years of experience as stipulated. The Government, the industry and the industry associations have a role in supporting the establishment and ramp-up of IILs. It also requires that IIMs confine themselves only to their current educational formats and not open up new leadership course streams for highly experienced candidates. However, IITs and IIMs should be encouraged to establish either on their own or in partnership with the government and the industry discrete IILs.
The curriculum of IILs should obviously be innovative and challenging and also state-of-the-art in terms of adaptation to the dynamic external environment. It should focus on transforming functional managers into business leaders without losing the core technical and professional strengths. Capabilities and competencies to start and grow startups, green field expansions and diversifications, achieve globalization and leverage pioneering technologies should be the unique deliverables of the programs. The curriculum should promote networking between industrial leaders and civil servants as well as between entrepreneurial leaders and professional leaders. The sponsoring corporations should treat the study period of twelve to eighteen months as paid sabbatical period, and seek no direct relationship between the study stream and the company domain; on the other hand, the companies should see the IIL programs as multifaceted leadership development initiatives. The faculty competencies should also be commensurate with the lofty and challenging goals of the IILs; the best of business leaders from India and abroad should constitute the core faculty with fulltime involvement. The IILs would be as transformative in India’s leadership drive as the IITs and IIMs had so far been, and would continue to be in India’s educational drive.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on March 11, 2012