[photopress:neilsimon.jpg,full,alignright]Business education of the kind that managers are accustomed to in the developed world is a relatively recent phenomenon for firms in China. One person with a long perspective on the subject Denis Simon, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the Levin Graduate Institute in New York City, which is part of the State University of New York (SUNY). He was a former dean of the Lally School of Management and Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has worked in Chinese-related executive training programs for 25 years. He speaks Mandarin.
Denis Simon said, ‘In the late 1980s and early 1990s, AT&T, looking to get into the good graces of China, trained 50 senior Chinese officials in management and technology in a specialized three-year program. That was very unique. It was a marquee project — training a leadership cohort and globalizing them before globalization was a popular word. A lot of programs started off like that.’ (Grammatical note: New dictionaries apparently now allow the modification of the word ‘unique’. Thus ‘very unique’ is acceptable even if it makes your teeth hurt.)
Hobbs Liu, director of executive education at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, said, ‘In China, business education started in the mid 1990s.We were the pioneers in introducing Western business knowledge in China.’
The executive education market is burgeoning today because Chinese companies have much to learn to compete globally.
[photopress:karpe_sandhya.jpg,full,alignright]Sandhya Karpe, director, executive programs, at Wharton Executive Education who also manages relationships with key clients in India and China, agrees. She said, ‘Management education is a relatively recent phenomenon in China and there is an excitement around it. We find, at one level, a need for functional programs and, at another level, programs for the top of the organization to meet the challenges of operating in a global market. Chinese companies have been very successful domestically. But if they want to expand their reach outside China, they need access to people doing business across the globe.’ (Note: Wharton is excellent at management education. At PR it could not run a lolly-pop factory. This truly woeful picture of Sandhya Karpe is all that is instantly available. Of course, you could write in an ask for a better picture. That, possibly to the surprise of Wharton, is not how publicity works)
Wharton and CEIBS joined forces to deliver, in September 2006, the Corporate Governance and Board of Directors Program, aimed at strengthening the ability of senior executives and board members of Chinese enterprises to manage long-term sustainable development challenges.
Hobbs Liu of CEIBS, said, ‘We are targeting CEOs and board directors from Chinese firms. There are some fundamental governance problems in China. A lot of issues facing companies — both indigenous companies and subsidiaries of multinationals — can be traced to governance at the top level. We try to combine best global practices within a China business context and expose participants to governance models and their evolution in a global context. We have offered this program on our own for the last six or seven years. This is first time we have allied with Wharton.’
Wharton Executive Education has been operating in China since 2004 and has an office in Shanghai. Some participants like to visit Wharton to participate in activities on an Ivy League campus and have exposure to the way U.S. businesses work. In addition to the academic content, there are requests for cultural activities. For other programs, Wharton faculty travel to China.
Among other things, Wharton has developed programs for officials in Shanghai’s municipal government and for executives of China Minsheng Banking Corporation. Wharton, in collaboration with INSEAD in France and the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, also has developed a program for Chinese CEOs.
Sandhya Karpe, director, executive programs, at Wharton Executive Education notes that state-owned enterprises in China are showing a lot of interest in executive programs. She said, ‘There is an eagerness to understand how businesses work overseas. They realize they have a lot of catching up to do.’