In any organization, problem solving skill is a mandatory requirement for a managerial or a leadership position. The decisions that are taken at the entry level positions in many organizations are generally structured and hence can be replaced by a machine and automation can help in reducing the cost to make the decision making faster. The decisions that are taken by middle level and senior level managers are sometimes semi structured and are sometimes unstructured. Hence at the mid-level and senior levels, the ability to make a decision for a business problem is one of the most critical skillsets that is needed.
How can B Schools hone problem solving skills in their students and tweak the MBA curriculum is a question that has been in debate for a long time. While a case based curriculum could help the students get equipped to deal with different scenarios and also could help them in making decisions, it alone cannot be the solution to create an expert decision maker.
On a day to day basis, many managers across different functional areas face several dilemmas and scenarios for which a multitude of decisions have to be taken. Managers and process owners have to consider several factors while making decisions. Some problems would need a long drawn thought process backed by research coupled with a deep level of scrutiny before a decision is taken, but some other scenarios would not need the same level of process complexity in decision making. There would be scenarios where decisions will have to be taken quickly, and the managers might not have the luxury of time and the relevant structured data for the same. Decisions have to be taken in scenarios where the combination of risk involved in making the decision (could be high or low) and certainty of the outcome (known or unknown) could be different.
While students pursue their management degree, they must necessarily be given inputs in terms of knowledge and skills, which can help them make the right decisions. One basic course which must be offered as a part of the MBA programme is – Data driven decision making. This can help students understand how to slice and dice data which can give them insights to help make better decisions. The next course which can help in imparting this skill can be based on some technology tool like ‘Tableau’. A decision making tool like Tableau enables organizations of all sizes to put actionable insights into the hands of the decision-makers, rather than an isolated data science team, leading to faster and better outcomes.
Some mandatory knowledge that has to be integrated into the curriculum is information which can help students to understand the decision making process and also equip them to take a strategic approach to decision making. Concepts like SWOT (Strength Weakness Opportunity and Threat) Analysis, Decision Matrix, Pareto Analysis, Decision Tree which have to be integrated in relevant courses which can help students to equip themselves in a better fashion and help them to take better real time decisions.
Cost-benefit analysis is a process that is used by business to analyze decisions. While doing a cost-benefit analysis, the process owner sums the benefits of a situation or action and then subtracts the costs associated with taking that action. It is essential for a manager to know and understand the process that has to be adopted to calculate the cost-benefit analysis for a decision.
Market research helps a business to understand customers better. Including market research as a subject in the curriculum can certainly help managers of the future to frame and test hypotheses of a real-time scenario. Market research is the process of gathering information about a particular market, such as the preferences of potential customers, the presence of competitors and the current size and state of the market. It is an essential strategic planning tool. It can immensely help in decision making because insight into the needs of customers can help managers create a mission, goals and strategies that better fulfil those needs.
A course on project management can be of immense help in taking decisions related to project planning and project execution. In any business, decisions have to be taken in an ongoing project and also a plethora of decisions have to be taken while kick starting a new project. A course on project management can help students understand project planning and control, project cost time and scope management along with project risk planning and mitigation. All this can be of immense help while decisions are taken. Another important subject which is a subset of project management is feasibility analysis. This is a business-planning tool that involves assessing if a certain project or goal can actually be created or achieved and also if the project can make a profit. Feasibility analysis can help managers during the planning phase of a project and while the project is launched.
Recruiters who hire B School graduates look for problem solvers and decision makers. Having the relevant courses in the MBA curriculum can ensure that the management graduates are industry ready and also can lead organizations to pinnacles of success and steadfast growth.
The article has been submitted by Dr. Ramakrishnan Raman, Director- Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Pune.