How Bob McDonald can (really) fix the VA’s health care system — Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From Fortune , August 8, 2014

The former Procter & Gamble CEO recently confirmed to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must go beyond government reforms that Congress recently struck and address how the troubled agency measures performance.

On Thursday, President Obama signed into law a $16.3 billion measure to help overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency that in recent months has been plagued with criticisms for long wait times for health care and manipulation of records. While the extra funds are substantial and may be necessary for a system that serves some 8.5 million veterans each year, it won’t be enough to fix the problems at one of the nation’s largest health providers.

Newly-confirmed Veterans Secretary Bob McDonald, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, must create a new dynamic if the reforms are to succeed; he has to go beyond Congresses’ prescriptions and change the agency’s internal dynamics by focusing on what is measured, why it is measured, and what is done in response to the results.

One of the reasons for the VA’s current crop of problems has to do with the way the VA measures performance. The metrics that former administrators focused on pushed people in the direction of highlighting (sometimes exaggerating) what was going right and playing down what was going wrong.

Consequently, systemic problems — which might have been addressed early on before they caused harm — built up until they caused a crisis. It didn’t help that many of the metrics, such as wait times, were beyond the control and influence of the managers being evaluated, so there was even more incentive to game the system.

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U-Lab: Prototyping the 21st-century university — Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

From The Huffington Post

Higher education has hit a wall — particularly the business school. Four issues are upending higher education as it is constituted today:

It is overpriced: While the cost of higher education has skyrocketed, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have emerged as a game changer, opening doors to an unparalleled democratization of higher education. The marginal costs of online learning are basically zero. And yes, in spite of huge enrollment numbers (often 50,000-80,000 students per class), MOOCs have not yet been able to fully deliver on their high- flying promises. Critics often point to course completion rates–often as little as 5% of the enrollees complete a course–a sign that MOOCs are still evolving.

It is out of touch with the changing market: The old model of higher education worked for a remarkably long period, although not for everyone. Students invested in the pursuit of a career path that almost guaranteed a good income, which then enabled them to swiftly pay back their college loans. Those years are gone. With many industries having moved from the United States to Asia, and with increasing automation in manufacturing and management, many formerly well-paying middle-class jobs no longer exist; they have been replaced by service sector jobs that do not even pay a living wage.

The curriculum is outdated: The intellectual and methodological foundation of business schools is thoroughly outdated. Lectures as a teaching method have been around for more than 2,000 years, and the Harvard case study method for more than 140 years; and yet, they still account for most of what is going on in B-schools today. But what’s worse is that the core curriculum–based on current mainstream economic and management thought–equips students with a mental framework that amplifies our global ecological and socio-economic crises instead of helping to solve them.

Read the full post at The Huffington Post. 

Dr. C. Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

‘Cultivating a holistic, integrative approach’: MIT Sloan School reflects on new Enterprise Management Track — Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From The Huffington Post

A few years ago, we here at MIT Sloan School of Management looked in to launching an MBA track to complement the existing tracks in Finance and Entrepreneurship. We contacted alumni and business professionals to determine what types of skills companies most desired in our MBA graduates. We wanted to find out what the companies’ needs were and where they saw gaps. What we found is perhaps the paradox of today’s global business world: even as markets have become increasingly interconnected and technology enables employees spread all over the globe to easily share knowledge and resources, it’s still hard for large organizations to achieve true interconnectedness that get things done.

The reason is simple. Employees have a natural tendency to be self-contained within their particular business units. Marketing folks mostly talk to other marketing folks; operations people consult other operations people; and the finance team pretty much sticks to itself. This is not necessarily a new problem. Silos comprised of workers with no real connection to each other or even to the outside world is a challenge that many companies face. According to a 2006 survey by McKinsey, the consulting group, only 25 percent of senior executives described their organizations as effective at sharing knowledge across boundaries, yet nearly 80 percent acknowledged that such coordination is critical to growth.

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Remembering Willis Wagons — 50 years later, civil rights challenges remain — Robert McKersie

From the Huffington Post

MIT Sloan Prof. Emeritus Robert B. McKersie

The nation has marked its I Have a Dream moment of history, but now the civil rights anniversary spotlight shines on Chicago, which saw one the largest civil rights demonstrations in its history exactly 50 years ago this week when a one-day boycott kept more than 200,000 students home from school. It was about something called Willis Wagons.

Schools in neighborhoods populated primarily by white students had generally better financing. They also had empty seats that students from poorer schools were anxious to fill. But under the neighborhood school policy of Superintendent of Schools Benjamin Willis, students could not transfer to these better-performing schools. To keep African-American kids in their local schools, Willis instead installed trailers (called Willis Wagons) to create more seats. As a result, students of different races were kept separate. And their educational opportunities remained far from equal.

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Why MBAs should know a second language — Jackie Wilbur

Exec. Director for Undergraduate & Master's Programs Master's Programs

Exec. Director for Undergraduate and Master’s Programs Jackie Wilbur

‘Recruiters seek geographically flexible managers: global citizens who have an ability to adapt to new environments and who are able to build cross-cultural competence’

Recently, I had a meeting with a recruiter from a global firm about her company’s future hiring needs and how we, as a school of management, might sharpen our efforts to train students in particular areas. We covered all the usual topics. We talked about sectors, business units, and specialized skills. Interestingly, though, one of her greatest employment concerns had nothing to do with functions or industries; rather it involved geographic mobility, cultural awareness, and language skills.

She told me how her firm is rapidly opening offices around the globe, and how it’s looking for people who have experience in different regions, or who are willing and eager to relocate. “Most of the business will be conducted in English,” she told me, “but in order for someone to be successful and fulfilled they’ll need proficiency in the local language.”

In an increasingly global world, the ability to speak more than one language has clear practical advantages. More and more, though, fluency in another language is becoming a vital skill for the next generation of business leaders. At a time when American-based companies realize that their greatest potential markets are outside of the U.S., they are seeking geographically and culturally flexible managers. Those with an ability to adapt to new environments quickly and are able to build cross-cultural bridges will become the future leaders.

Language skills are paramount. As Matt Symonds, chief editor of MBA50.com, a website dedicated to the world’s outstanding business schools, wrote recently in Bloomberg Businessweek: “In a global business environment, [language] skills…make the difference between a good performance and a truly great one.”

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