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Julie Davies

Dr Julie Davies is HR Subject Group Leader at the University of Huddersfield Business School in the UK, j.a.davies@hud.ac.uk

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Julie Davies looks back on five years of the International Deans’ Programme, a joint initiative between the Association of Business Schools and EFMD.

Do business school deans take their own medicine? How do they make a difference? What keeps them sane? These are just some of the questions the International Deans’ Programme (IDP) seeks to address.

When I joined the Association of Business Schools (ABS) in 2006 I was surprised that most deans of British business schools were British nationals. This seemed odd given the diverse international faculty and student base of the units they led. One might expect a cadre of internationally mobile talent to be running world-leading institutions.

Britain’s talent pool for deans has diversified considerably since then, with 30% women and, for the first time, the business schools in Oxford and Cambridge universities have respectively appointed deans from Harvard and INSEAD.

ABS runs a suite of capacity-building programmes so it seemed natural to work with our partners EFMD on a development programme for new business school deans worldwide. We agreed to deliver the IDP over seven days in three modules, one outside Europe. The programme is designed to provide new deans with opportunities to network, gain exposure to different models, and, importantly, to re-energise and take time out to interact in debates on live challenges and plan their priorities with practising deans.

We began the IDP on a dark rainy December morning on the shores of Lake Geneva with breakfast at IMD. It felt like a séance. Lesson number one – deans need to wine and dine for their schools so that is a good place to start an IDP conversation.

Indeed, a key message in the book Mastering Executive Education written by Paul Strebel and Tracey Keys, IMD faculty members, is the importance of tapping into executives’ emotions and real-world experiences.

The first activity on the IDP was for trios of deans to present the differences and similarities between their business schools. Some were very guarded and reluctant to collaborate. Lesson number two – build up trust first.

Thankfully, Peter Lorange, the inimitable then President of IMD, and his colleagues embraced the IDP. They volunteered candid insights into research-based thought leadership, faculty recruitment and remuneration, and IMD’s particular model of non-tenured faculty, minimal meetings and faculty team bonuses. Lesson number three – visiting a business school whose dean has been in post a long time and who is about to step down generates very open and lively discussions.

In planning for the second session of the first IDP, we asked ourselves where in the world might you find some of the highest concentrations of business schools. Boston seemed a logical option. We crammed in visits to Babson, Bentley,

Boston University, Harvard Business School, the offices of Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan and Northeastern.

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