EP41 Henry Mintzberg

Episode 41 – Mining Mintzberg for Management Gold


McGill Business Professor Henry Mintzberg is the author of 20 books on management, creator of two revolutionary international management programs, and the recipient of a mountain of accolades and honors for his thought leadership in the business world. Mintzberg minces no words in his pointed criticism of current approaches to management training and the behavior of those in management and leadership positions. In this interview, Professor Mintzberg comments on the value of an MBA in providing management skills:

“Anybody who comes out of a business school should have a stamp on his or her forehead—like a skull and crossbones—that says Warning! Not Prepared to Manage.”

He explains how managers get distorted during traditional business education. Management is a practice where art, craft and science intersect. Because the art and craft cannot be taught in a business school setting, the “science” has become the focus of graduate business education. Thus, MBAs emerge with skills in marketing, finance, and accounting but lack the very “essence” of management—the art and the craft. 

He explains why “remote control managers” are dangerous. These are people who manage by the numbers, with monitoring and measuring substituting for actually knowing what’s going on in the business. This lack of understanding has implications for the success and capacity of the organization and disconnection from the ground floor of the organization impairs innovation.

Professor Mintzberg says healthcare should not be run like a business. In fact, he states, “most businesses should not be run like a business.”  He makes it clear that this is especially true in professions and in services like medicine and healthcare. Healthcare is not a business, it’s a calling.

Professor Mintzberg points to the pros and cons of various groups such as physicians, nurses, MBAs, accountants and others who seek to lead healthcare institutions. He believes managers must know and understand the services being offered, be unequivocally collaborative, and humble enough to learn. Physicians who succeed in business are those who collaborate and build relationships. 

Mintzberg, an internationally recognized iconoclast, believes jail is the most appropriate destination for board members who approve super-sized CEO salaries and for the executives who accept them. He states that huge salaries are dysfunctional nonsense and the opposite of leadership that leads to “a kind of narcissism.”  When asked about incentives for physicians, Professor Mintzberg exudes enthusiasm. “Yes! A patient whose life has been saved and who is appreciative is a terrific incentive!”  But treating physicians like caged pigeons and giving them little rewards for their work is just silliness.  

Professor Mintzberg talks about the structure, purpose, and successes of the International Masters for Health Leadership program which he co-founded. And he shares a high level overview of his important work focused on the need to rebalance society. An imbalance in three sectors,  the public, private and what he calls the plural sector, are at the root of many of society’s most harmful and dysfunctional patterns. This is so relevant to healthcare, which is being destroyed by inroads by the profit-driven private sector.

In this episode:

  • Why Professor Mintzberg’s quadruple bypass cost $2.50
  • How beaver artists find gallery space
  • The Supreme Court legalized bribery in the Citizens United decision
  • Mintzberg’s Masters Program, Ebola Virus, and Doctors Without Borders
  • Dulcie and the Infinite List of Positive Characteristics

Meet Henry Mintzberg

Henry Mintzberg, PhD, is a professor in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal. He sits in the Cleghorn Chair of Management Studies and has had extensive visiting professorships at INSEAD in France and the London Business School in England.

As an internationally renowned author and educator, he has received an avalanche of honorary degrees, awards, and recognition for his iconoclastic thought leadership in the realm of business. He has authored 20 books and nearly 200 articles, and speaks frequently on podcasts and regularly publishes a TWOG (Tweet to Blog) which he calls “provocative fun.”

He co-founded and remains active in the International Masters Program for Managers and the International Masters for Health Leadership as well as the venture CoachingOurselves.com. These are all novel, successful, and highly regarded initiatives for managers to learn together from their own experience, with CoachingOurselves.com occurring in the participants’ own workplace.

Professor Mintzberg is also an outdoorsman and collector of peculiar beaver sculptures, which he enthusiastically discusses in this episode.