Episodic curricular renewal remains the norm among most business schools. Continuous curricular review and renewal is an option, yet few business school leaders have adopted this approach. In an article appearing in MBA Innovation, a publication of the MBA Roundtable, I suggested a model for achieving continuous business school curricular innovation and renewal in an effort to shift the time to market for curricular innovation from years to weeks or months.
What are some of the benefits of continuous curricular innovation?
- Relevant content is added and irrelevant content is eliminated more quickly
- Content better matches what is happening in the dynamic business environment
- Students are better prepared for the roles they assume at graduation
- Program is more appealing to potential applicants
- Program is more competitive and meeting the needs of the market
- Continuous change efforts are less disruptive than the grand episodic efforts
All of this means an improved curriculum and a more dynamic MBA educational experience that better serves the students.
This blog post is a brief summary of a continuous approach -- the full MBA Innovation article is available for download at the bottom of the page.
Curricular Renewal Through Cycle Time Management
Continuous curricular innovation and renewal is about managing cycle time, which is the time required to complete a curricular review and renewal cycle. While there are many ways of describing this cycle, Figure 1 depicts a simple decision life cycle with four steps starting with observations and ending the first cycle with action.
Achieving continuous curricular innovation and renewal means repeating this cycle on an ongoing basis. The time between cycles is a function of the amount and frequency of change constituents are experiencing, the length of time it takes to get decision makers to agree that change is needed, make a decision as to what changes are needed, and to act on the decisions that are made.
The following provides a brief description of each step as applied to curricular review, renewal, and innovation:
1. Observe – constituency groups or individuals make observations that call attention to the need for a curricular change.
2. Orient – these groups or individuals introduce the observation to decision makers and propose potential solutions.
3. Decide – decision makers determine whether there is need for a curricular change and approve proposed solutions.
4. Act – take a curricular action or consciously not take one given the decision.
This evidenced-based management model is deceivingly simple; however, its execution can be quite complex. For example, the observation step requires data collection from multiple constituent groups on an ongoing basis. Thus, data collection should include feedback from various business school stakeholders. Methods for data collection can include qualitative research (such as focus groups) and quantitative methods (such as MBA experience surveys).
Also, ongoing observations or data collection is requisite to continuous MBA program curricular innovation and renewal. This step alone means program administrators must be prepared to identify which constituent groups to include, the frequency of data collection from each constituent group, the data collection methodology, and the frequency of data analysis and reporting.
Another feature of the model is how well it demonstrates the importance of life cycle management. The MBA Lifecycle Surveys provided by Percept Research are designed to capture feedback at discrete points of the student’s experience in a similar life cycle approach to support these efforts.
Suggestions For Reducing Cycle Times
Often overlooked is the impact a long life cycle can have on graduates and program positioning.
Figure 2 provides a comparison of two decision life cycles based on time to decision and time to action. The comparison illustrates programs with shorter life cycles have a competitive advantage over programs with longer life cycles.
There are many opportunities for reducing decision cycle times. Some opportunities are at the university/campus level, some are at the college/school level, some are at the department level, some are at the course level, and some are at the individual faculty member level.
To learn more about this approach along with suggestions for reducing cycle times, click the button below to download a copy of the full article, From Episodic to Continuous Curricular Renewal – Creating Space for Innovation.
Please leave a comment about your business school’s approach to innovating your MBA curriculum. Our consultant team would love to hear about your experience and receive your questions!
Dr. Rodney Alsup, author for this article, is a Senior Consultant at Percept Research and is the founder of MyeEMBA to help MBA students live and work smarter while earning their degree. Rodney welcomes your questions and comments.