There is an argument going the rounds that Management should be a profession. The most recent incarnation of this proposition is credited to  Khurana and Nohria.

Nohria, by the way, is one name bandied about as a future dean of the West Point of Capitalism. The poor man has received unsolicited support (or stab in the back) by way of a web site. It is worth a read if only as parody. I cannot resist quoting one line:

Professor Nohria is a level 5 leader:……………….. sometimes saying “Perhaps I’m wrong – what do you think?”…………..

Who knew that what passes for modesty elsewhere is elevated to a condition called level 5 leadership.

Khurana and Nohria have gone a step further to suggest an oath that MBA’s should consider. I’ll not repeat the arguments against the professionalization idea or the criticisms of the oath. Suffice it to say, neither Doctors or Lawyers are examples to be emulated. Hobbes got it right:

“…..the bonds of words are too weak bridle men’s ambition…….”

More interesting, I think, is what motivates these well meaning but misguided suggestions. The first is the supposed failures of those with an MBA. The argument is familiar. Consider all the CEO’s who had MBA’s. They alsol had undergraduate degrees from elite institutions as well. They were mostly male. So, perhaps the root cause of our current malaise is an elite university education combined with the male reproductive organ? Wait! Someone has already made that argument. The militantly middle of the road columnist David Brooks, who argues that the crash was caused by whiz kid barrow boys replacing dim witted blue-bloods.

By taking the blame for the supposed failures of capitalism, one can lay claim to more influence than is warranted. It is no more than self-aggrandizement. Proponents of professionalization labor under the misconception that they are a species of Jesuit who

have discovered the precise point to which intellectual culture can be carried without risk of intellectual emancipation.

Even the Jesuits required the child `until he was seven’ in order to return the man. This is emphatically not the case with B-schools I am familiar with.

Those of us who labor in silvas academi, far from the non-profit wing of the McKinsey corporation on the banks of the Charles do not have the same ambitions. We are driven by a desire to understand the world of commerce. We convey what few principles that have been teased out to our students and point out the impediments to further understanding. Not all our students share the same curiosity. For some, we are an annoying obstacle course on the way to a life of quiet desperation. By osmosis, they acquire some useful knowledge.  However, there are enough that share that same curiosity and perhaps, they will go on to make a difference.