Executive Education ROI – EMBA/AMP/GMP/PLD

Credit goes to PLD’er S. Michalitsianos for this topic – Interesting research conducted by Chicago Booth on executive education ROI. However, the research focused on internal parameters like promotions etc; It would have been great research if external parameters ( perspectives from executive recruiters , leaders outside the sponsoring firm etc) were considered. http://custom.chicagoexec.net/chicagocustom.nsf/ROI_7-09_rev8-6.pdf

The comments below are from beatgmat.com forums. They are in line with my previous blog postings. The author is right-on with his comments on networking, education and ROI.

“I am afraid I would disagree with Mr. Michaels on the “MBA light” comment. I taught for several years in the Executive MBA and MBA programs at Kellogg-HKUST and together with several of my former Kellogg-HKUST colleagues I have have founded an admissions consultancy for experienced professionals–as opposed to fresh graduates (“BSchoolOver30.com”, we launch next month). This I did precisely because–in speaking with people that I have helped gain entry into schools and resolve the EMBA question–few truly understand EMBA and Executive Ed programs, their rigors, their structure, their benefits and the logic behind why schools do what they do when considering applications. (All of this I say with no disrespect at all intended to Mr. Michaels; most of his other comments I agree with.)
In truth, comparing MBA and EMBA may seem reasonable from the applicant or even the MBA admission consultant’s point of view; however, from the point of view of one who has taught both–they are completely, utterly different in scope and purpose. Even comparing acceptance and rejection numbers (as many news articles do) is baseless if not statistically unsound because the content of the applicant pools and criteria for selection for each, respectively, are so different.
Without question, an EMBA from a top school indicates that the person has achieved a significant level of success in his or her career. (This is the read from a “top” school such as the ones you mention.) Moreover, the fact that many companies pay for the programs reinforces his or her stellar performance record (adding to it on the CV, which is why I would NOT recommend putting “MBA” if you receive an “EMBA”) and signals to future companies (if that person ever moves) how valuable he or she actually was in his or her last position. It is prestigious to say that your former employer thought enough of you to pay for a very expensive education. I can furthermore tell you that EMBAs generally consider themselves (and generally are) part of an exclusive club of people who feel that they did not need the school they attended to achieve their success but rather their EMBA represented an enjoyable part of acquiring skills to round out their already successful career.
Indeed, a recent WSJ article suggests that even in the midst of cutbacks in companies paying for EMBA and Exec Ed, many will now only do so for select employees because they feel the programs are truly valuable:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204731804574390841708418348.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_Careers_EXECUTIVEMBARANKINGS5_6. This would make having a financed EMBA even MORE prestigious than in previous “boom” times when every employee could get one financed. Moreover, I believe that the primary reason for the apparent inertia in the EMBA career has more to do with age (since EMBAs start at a more advanced stage of their career where change is more difficult), salary (employers that pay for EMBAs and Exec Ed often pay those employees higher salaries–which we saw at Kellogg-HKUST with +250K/year the class average–making positions elsewhere unattractive) and specialization (EMBA and Exec Ed programs focus on specific skills that are in demand, further specializing the student/professional relative to MBAs which are “generalist” business).
Let us contrast this all with MBAs (whom I have nothing against, as I taught them and love them as well). MBAs may have little or no work experience and increasingly differ only in age from undergraduates. Indeed, top schools are starting to reject more and more applicants with even 5 or 6 years of experience:http://media.www.whartonjournal.com/media/storage/paper201/news/2008/10/20/News/Younger.Mba.Students.Represent.A.New.Norm-3495206.shtml. Of course there are many (mostly economic) reasons for this that I know about because I taught in these kinds of schools (I will not go into them in this comment). However, the point is that MBAs are and will be seen in the future as people that entered business school almost directly after undergraduate studies, with little or no experience and thus having done so on the basis of their academic achievements, almost solely. That makes the MBA a completely different animal from the EMBA, as described above. The result is that the graduating MBA has little more than the school name and his/her first job without career progression to stand on. This, in turn, gives the prospective employer little more to evaluate than the MBA’s undergraduate transcripts and GMAT. By contrast, with an EMBA, the graduate has BOTH the school name AND his or her professional profile: which we have already said, must have been impressive, at least to get into a top program and have it financed.
I think the rumor about an EMBA being MBA-light stems from a grave misunderstanding of the purposes of the respective curricula. MBAs spend more time doing a lot of busy work and problem sets and since people think mathematics, finance and accounting are “hard” (and these tend to get much more focus in MBA as opposed to EMBA programs), there is a perception that MBAs work harder. However, the distinction between MBA and EMBA work and curricula is based upon something completely different. From MBAs professors expect comprehension. From EMBAs professors expect business fluency, cool-headedness and the ability to learn from and draw on experience. MBAs we prepare to enter a potentially rigorous, unfamiliar work environment in a typically middle management or consultancy role. EMBAs we prepare to continue within a work environment they are already familiar with and in a senior executive role.
Thus, when I taught MBAs (I taught finance), I assigned problem sets and quantitative exercises with a good bit of statistics. I could not just talk about derivatives, for example, I had to show them how they worked and how prices were calculated. However, when I taught EMBAs and part-timers, I used case studies almost solely and the problem sets seldom consisted of quantitative problems but rather scenarios, role plays, group exercises, etc. Derivatives were seen as one of possibly many strategic devices that could be used in a given situation and students needed to know when they should and should not be employed in a given situation, for example. The MBA was “proving” to me that he/she had the work ethic to process the information I provided and, through disciplined study, could provide an expected answer to show he/she knew the concept. The EMBA and Exec Ed person was proving by his/her answer that he/she had a big picture view and could see through the storm and use the concept to get the job done or tell others when to do it. Do you see the difference? So do good employers.”
“My apologies for the delay in responding. Congratulations on getting into some schools! I would still wait to commit though and consider what I have to say here. When I mentioned “top” school, I did mean those in your Tier I; however, I was also thinking of USC, UCLA as well as (for Exec Ed), Harvard, MIT, Duke and Stanford. Depending upon your needs and career trajectory, I might encourage you to think about Exec Ed because there are outstanding programs out there which go far beyond even EMBA in terms of value with respect to capacity building. In any case, my logic for focusing on top schools is largely connected to the economics. The price differential across EMBA and Exec Ed programs provides no indication of quality–with price rarely increasing with quality as you go from the 20th-ranked to number 1 ranked on the scale. On top of this, I find that most of the programs (EMBA and Exec Ed) are overpriced (with the exception of Harvard, as I explain below), making it especially important to choose the right program rather than consider year to year rankings. In evaluating whether a program is overpriced (I know you will ask) I think of it this way. Most (top) EMBA programs provide around 70% salary growth (see Financial Times, 2009 rankings). I think that the program should not cost more (and should really be less) than that 70% growth in one’s annual salary, as that growth is not guaranteed nor is it guaranteeing job security. The benefits should be recouped immediately at that price tag in my view so you are not carrying a long-term debt around. The average salary for top 20 entrants is around $180,000 leading to a maximum average price tag of $126,000 (or less to be of real value) and most of these programs exceed that amount by a large margin.
Why is Harvard special? They have managed to structure excellent, reasonably priced programming within an institution that has an unparalleled reputation and set of alumni resources. I just helped someone get into one of their most competitive programs (PLD) and he has two classmates that previously attended Wharton and MIT. Both were so pleased with Harvard that they said it was incomparable to their experiences at the other schools–which cost 3 times the price. True, at Harvard you are getting primarily Strategy and Negotiation education; however, what they do best they do better than anyone else and you get that with a career boost that I think is unbeatable, especially if you are thinking globally.
The others I believe should be considered if:
1) You want a different crowd or business network than Harvard offers: USC is one such school, Kellogg is another. USC is interesting because the alumni are really movers and shakers across the US in big companies–and they all like football:) That is a fun, impressive crowd and you might prefer them to the often wide ranging, card passing people you might find at Harvard (though it is harder to generalize there than for USC).
2) Money is no object (you are not paying for it) so you can afford to choose schools for various other attributes that you like (setting, course timetable, etc.)
3) You need a specialty different from leadership, strategy and negotiation (i.e., management, marketing, finance, etc., what the other top schools are good in)
4) You need proximity and must work at the same time.
Thus, if you have not explored the Exec Ed option–particularly at HBS–I would do so. Structuring the right additional curriculum can get you alumni status and enable to you partake of an amazing situation.
Last, I would reiterate that you should not pay so much attention to rankings. These are really unstable outside of the top 3 or 4 schools and have little reflection on anything except buzz and things like the average salary weighting movements. If a school (outside of those top tier ones I mention) offers something that you like in a way that you like and on a timetable that you like, I would investigate it and then consider its ranking after those facts–keeping in mind that it should still enhance your career. If you need a rough guide to “better” versus “worse” programs then rankings are okay; otherwise, they do not say much. I tell my clients that it is more important to consider schools and programs that are typically considered “excellent” in the industry they intend to continue working in. This, I believe, has worked quite well for Wharton, for example, which excels in finance and is the Holy Land of finance for those in that arena, particularly on the East Coast. ……………………………………”

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