The Green Report: ‘authors of the apocalypse?’ I think so.

As many of you will know I have been highly critical of the Green Report.

It is so shot full of assumptions as to beggar belief. It is the product of romantic and lazy thinking, especially with respect to the ‘cult of the leader,’ and the capacity of business school style training to offer appropriate forms of training outside the world of business. (It has many other faults as well – but lets leave these to one side).

I hope the report disappears into the long grass never to be seen again.I strongly believe that the style of management, and leadership, training it proposes will do real and long lasting damage to the Church and, therefore society for, a healthy society needs a healthy church.

My reasoning is that the proposals seek to mimic a mode of training that has caused significant damage in the corporate world. 

I can claim some authority for my observations: seventeen years in the City, holding a MBA and having taught on MBA programmes.

So am I a lone voice? Thankfully no!

Professor Mintzberg wrote a highly significant – and prophetic – book in 2004 called Managers Not MBAs, which I would like the authors of the Green Report to ‘mark, read and inwardly digest.’

Like most prophets Mintzberg was widely ignored, not because he was wrong, but because the truths he espoused caused significant discomfort in the corridors of corporate power. All I am going to offer here is three short quotes each followed by the  briefest of reflections;

‘It is time to recognise conventional MBA programs for what they are – or else close them down. They are specialised training in the functions of business, not general educating in the practice of managing……….This may seem a strange contention at a time when MBA programs are at the pinnacle of their success, and when American business, which has relied so heavily on this credential, seems to have attained its greatest stage of development. I shall argue that much of this success is delusory, that our approach to educating leaders is undermining our leadership, with dire economic and social consequences.’

Quite! I don’t, as I have previously argued, understand why the Church seems to think that MBA programmes offer ‘general educating in the practice of management.’

They don’t; its not even part of their rationale.

Any business school that suggests it can is over-promising and, will under-deliver. Please let us not fall victim to such false prophets, as St. Paul might have suggested.

Furthermore I think we need to be honest and understand that it was in some of our business schools that the strategic and financial models that led to the economic catastrophe of 2008 were ‘manufactured.’ Business Schools were described as the ‘authors of the apocalypse’ in one leading national newspaper (Sunday Times, 1st March 2009). If we are going to engage business schools to develop our ‘leaders’ we should do so with extreme caution. We don’t want to walk blindly into becoming authors of the Church’s apocalypse.

Consider Phillip Broughton’s reflection on his Harvard MBA:

‘From Royal Bank of Scotland to Merrill Lynch, from HBOS to Lehman Brothers, the Masters of Disaster have their fingerprints on every recent financial fiasco.

I write as the holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School – once regarded as a golden ticket to riches, but these days more like scarlet letters of shame. We MBAs are haunted by the thought that the tag really stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, Mighty Big Attitude, Me Before Anyone and Management By Accident. For today’s purposes, perhaps it should be Masters of the Business Apocalypse. ‘

Maybe the Church should pause for thought before proceeding with MBA style training. ‘Our’ (theological) stock in trade (forgive the pun) should be humility and not arrogance, attitude and accident.

Mintzberg’s next,stinging criticism, is this:

‘Considered as education for management, conventional MBA programmes train the wrong people in the wrong way with the wrong consequences………..the remaining ones (usually called EMBAs) train the right people in the wrong way with the wrong consequences.’

So what are we to make of this?

Professor Mintzberg suggests that even if – and its a massive if -the Church is capable of spotting leadership and talent in advance, the likelihood is that MBA type training will then ‘undermine leadership’ by training leaders in the wrong way (in a way that never truly tests their ‘leadership’ whilst instilling wrong attitudes),which will, as sure as night follows day, lead to wrong consequences.

The Green Report is anaemic,lazy and romantic and should be rejected. We can, and must do, much better.


One thought on “The Green Report: ‘authors of the apocalypse?’ I think so.

  1. Very much appreciated your commentary on the Green report. An observation of my own is that if parochial church leaders start adopting these ‘behaviours’ there will be a yet further increase in the rate of people leaving the CofE.

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