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What MBAs Would Do If They Were CEOs!

If you were CEO of a major firm, what would be your first decision? BusinessBecause members share their ideas, from scrapping paid annual holiday to reducing pay for the executive board!


Fri Jan 4 2013


Top business schools have built their reputations and their appeal on the idea of training the corporate world’s next wave of leaders and pioneers- our future CEOs.  

Towards the end of last year we asked BusinessBecause members what they would do as CEO of a multinational firm, and their responses make for interesting reading! Participants were offered free copies of topical business books published by Wiley. The answers from our MBA members shows a broad concensus that corporate leadership is about responsibility to customers, employees, and the wider public. 

And maybe it won't be long till they put their ideas into action! INSEAD, an elite business school with a top-ranked international MBA program, teamed up with the Harvard Business Review to create a detailed ranking of the world’s best 100 CEOs in different fields and markets. The results show that, on average, CEOs with MBAs find themselves placed 40 rungs higher than those without. 

So, what did our members tell us? Read on to find out!

Serving customers

First, in a refreshingly traditional way, serving customers was widely understood to be the first priority of any business. For many of our users, the first thing they would do as CEO would be to overhaul and improve the customer service experience. Saurabh Jindal, for one, wants to make sure every employee spends at least one day a year personally handling and taking charge of customer service issues. Rashmi Agarwal would mandate that all customer queries, issues, and problems in his organization be answered successfully within 24 hours and that customer feedback metrics be rigorously maintained. 

Looking after and empowering your employees

Second, a number of users said that, as CEOs, they would focus on helping the employees of their firms. One respondent said that giving staff more freedom with their holidays would be a win-win for everyone. Instead of scrimping on paid annual holiday allowance, employees would be rewarded for actual output and not for simply showing up. 

Claire Johnsen points out that employees too often work against each other while in rival teams or departments. As CEO, she would set up a series of informal, non-judgmental workshops where people from different departments get together and share ideas without the need to compete against each other, fostering a more collaborative atmosphere in the workplace.

“These informal meetings would create an opportunity for employees to identify their 'wishes' or improvements for the company…whilst re-affirming the company vision.” 

Anil Sreenivas  would set up an internal social network for employees in order to speed up communications and create a less formal work atmosphere. 

Some have more radical change in mind. One user would conduct a reverse auction to see which person in a selected pool of talented managers would take a prestigious board job for the least amount of pay, bringing the costs of senior management down to more efficient levels.

Edith Kennedy would create a continuous, cross-cultural exchange-training program in which employees from different cultural backgrounds would form an ad hoc training team, learning from each other and passing on their knowledge to other employees. They could then be rotated out and another team put in their place, “Thus revolving tacit and explicit knowledge within the organization and encouraging continuous innovation across cultures.”

Jean-Etienne Poirrier, who currently works in a multinational, “Too often sees people with ideas who are afraid to try or who don't know where to start.” As CEO, he would actively push for more creative, risk-taking behavior from his staff, forgiving any small mistakes or failure along the way while rewarding those with genuinely successful ideas or innovations.

Meifang Chen from Google believes that, “No matter how big, successful a company is, sometimes…the middle management is the cancer of innovation,” necessitating immediate reviews of middle management functions in any company. Another user would eschew the glass-covered corner office entirely if appointed CEO and would keep bureaucracy to a minimum by “hot-desking” around the firm.

Community and customers

Third, CEOs should also work to make sure that their companies are doing the right thing, regardless of what they sell and which markets they’re in. One user proposes using regular sustainability targets and rewarding those who meet or exceed those targets as a way of helping to protect the environment.

Ajay Swamy would set up a separate R&D team to work on low-cost sustainable projects targeting the bottom end of the market in the developing world. Any successes would then be folded into the company’s supply chain and wider business.

Finally Manish Kumar would engage each community in which his firm operates by crowdsourcing ideas from customers and other outsiders, noting that “co-creation and crowdsourcing already exist, but its implementation in a new form can be transformational for a multinational. “

In all of these examples, our members have shown that corporate leadership is ultimately about responsibility - to customers, employees, and even the wider public. One doesn’t need an MBA to know this. However, judging by the findings of the INSEAD ranking, an MBA does seem to help with everything else!