A frame from a management comic book which illustrates the roots of Michelin's strategy © FT montage/ Les Arènes

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Executive Education rankings 2017

Which schools will be number one in the FT Executive Education ranking for custom and open programmes? Will Iese and IMD be able to retain their number one position?

Andrew Hill's challenge

The FT's management editor sets a weekly test of your business, strategy and management skills.

Tyremaker Michelin wants to push more decision-making down to its front-line workers and extend a trial project for greater empowerment and accountability, called responsabilisation, to the whole company. I recently visited one of the group's French factories to see how the initiative works and how it has been received (pretty well, according to managers and staff.) 

One challenge, though, is persuading managers to give up their reliance on status, authority and rules. I asked one Michelin team leader whether his role was even necessary now and he responded: "That's the question — and it can be frightening." So this week, please answer the question yourselves — are managers necessary? — and provide a one-sentence justification for your response. Answers to bschool@ft.com.

Last week, I asked you to provide one innovation that would set business education on a different path into the future, in the light of new criticism of Harvard Business School. Not surprisingly, you were keen to contribute. Many of you wanted more "real world" experiences. Meanwhile, John Gilligan, who has been lectured by HBS academics and has himself lectured at [students of] London Business School, traced the problem to the lecture theatres themselves: "The amphitheatre …encourages theatrical performances from faculty and creates competition for attention between students. It obviates against team working, which is what management essentially is." Small group problem-solving would be more efficient, he suggests.

I've been transfixedby the latest developments in the Trump administration, and somy further reading has had a Washington bias this week. This article by Jena McGregor in the Washington Post pointed out that in firing James Comey, the FBI head, the president had transgressed a basic rule of management: don't catch staff by surprise and alwayspass on bad news in person.

As she points out, the manner of Mr Comey's firing was not just bad for him, but could be bad for the FBI: "Management research has shown that survivors of job cuts work harder when they perceive that their colleagues were treated with dignity."

Professor's picks

Every week a business school professor or academic recommends useful FT articles.

Tom van Laer, senior lecturer in marketing at Cass Business School in the UK, selects:

Silicon Valley ‘superstars’ risk a populist backlash "This article suggests that tech groups such as Google and Facebook escape voters’ populist anger — ‘that Wall Street or cheap Chinese labour has attracted’ — because the companies’ job-disrupting effect is so subtle. Ironically, the writer says that, according to research, it is ‘technology that is the primary economic driver of …populism.’

Such companies play a big part in our lives and could even determine how you see the world. It is well known that a lot of the information on the web is selected for the public by their algorithms, which leads to bias in people’s worldview. However, if voters figure out how these companies work and realise algorithms distort their worldview, then the consequences could be severe for the tech groups."

Jonathan Moules' business school news

Successful businesses are those that can exploit a niche. Business schools are no different in that respect, which in part explains why so many have tried to maximise the benefit of what they do by creating specialist MBA courses in particular sectors. 

NYU Stern this month announced plans to launch a luxury and fashion MBA aimed at those looking to work for multinational clothing brands or designer labels. The question is whether the fashion industry, not known for shopping for their executive talent at business schools, would be interesting in hiring the graduates of such a course.

A more successful match has been between business schools and sports people. As part of this year’s Financial Times ranking of executive education, I spoke with the creators of a course at the Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business aimed at army veterans and former Olympians from Team USA. Business schools have a long history of helping ex-soldiers retrain for civilian life. Elite athletes are a new departure, but it appears are an equally good fit since many need to reinvent themselves to find work after their days of sporting competition are over. 

Ask the academics

Got a question for leading business school experts? Send it to bschool@ft.com and we will publish the best replies in future newsletters.

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Compiled by Wai Kwen Chan

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