My post the other day on the PhD Posse at Ford drew quite a bit of mixed reaction both in blog comments, and in my email in box. Look – I have no problem with PhD's – wish I were smart enough to be one, in fact. The problem, as one commenter so eloquently pointed out, is theoretical genius with absolutely no base in reality. When the academic elite take on business problems with no real knowledge or experience, very little good is going to come of it.
The same is true with the Ivy League MBA's. There is nothing wrong with an MBA from Harvard, but it is only worthwhile if it is layered on top of solid experience in the business and the product to be managed. All by itself, it is nothing more than a lot of peripheral theory with virtually no practical value. Guys like Mark Graban, who worked and got a deep dose of reality, then layered an MBA from MIT on top of it; and guys like long time reader Costikyan Jarvis who worked at Jarvis Cutting Tool long enough to really know the cutting tool business then went on to get an MBA from Harvard, are much better for having the MBAs. The kid who goes straight from undergrad school to Harvard and gets an MBA , on the other hand, knows nothing about any business and cannot possibly do anyone any good with that MBA. The most important thing about the widget business is widgets. Ideally you know about both widgets and business, but if you are only going to know about one of the two, then the widgets are the one to know.
They just gave the Nobel Prize for economics to two PhD's for figuring out what the lowest level, least educated lean practitioner who reads Evolving Excellence already knows – that vertically integrated manufacturers work better than those who outsource everything; and that supplier partnerships work. What took the intelligentsia so long to get an overwhelming grasp of the obvious? "Economists had largely ignored the importance of such networks, said Yale University environmental economist Matthew Kotchen, in part, because they couldn't come up with elegant models to describe them." If they cannot describe something in mathematical terms, it does not exist. Kevin has been hammering Boeing for the insanity of the Dreamliner outsourcing debacle since day one. They just gave the Nobel Prize to two people for figuring out what you read in Evolving Excellence over three years ago, and then again today – and a number of times in between in posts written here by Kevin, and by Jon Miller and Mark Graban on their blogs. Where are our Nobel Prizes?
I guess what it boils down to is this: Management – good management, lean management – requires equal parts head heart and gut in every decision. Brains; as well as empathy and compassion; and common sense and experience. The PhD's and MBA's certainly have the head part down cold. But if you have to be able to model something for it to be true, and all you know came from books, then the heart and gut elements are not going to a part your recommendations. The fact that they have a lot of heart and gut – and enough head, too – is why guys like Kevin, Mark and Jon make points casually in blog posts that PhD's treat as Nobel Prize winning revelations.