By Valentin Vassilev, Published: 12 October 2018
One of the main concerns of executives who are considering the possibility of enrolling in an Executive MBA programme revolves around their ability to fit yet another weighty item into their busy schedules. Is the EMBA work-life balance feasible? Yes, it is. The diversity of programme formats offers business professionals ways to reap the benefits of C-suite learning and networking without slowing down their careers.
Business executives don’t have much time on their hands, though some claim just the opposite. Usually torn between meetings, conferences, business trips, presentations, emails, etc., it’s sometimes hard for them even to clear their schedules to spend time with family and friends, let alone continue their education in business school. Therefore, many dismiss the idea of enrolling in an EMBA programme offhand, believing such an endeavour would place a huge strain on their careers and private lives. And they would be wrong.
Business schools, knowing that executives and managers have busy schedules, have designed EMBA programmes that make it easier for them to juggle classes, professional responsibilities, and private life. Let’s take a look at three EMBA formats – modular, blended, and global – and see how they are compatible with a busy executive’s schedule.
Flexibility is the distinguishing feature of Executive MBA programmes which allow busy executives and managers to handle personal and professional responsibilities while gaining senior-management knowledge, a new C-suite network, and a reputable degree. EMBA participants enrolled in modular programmes spend up to a week on campus at a time over a period of 15 to 22 months. The EMBA is earned when participants have completed all their modules. There are only a few programmes based solely on a modular approach, with most of the business schools combining several teaching methods in their courses. For instance, the Oxford Executive MBA programme at Saïd Business School (UK) is arranged into 16 week-long modules. The majority of modules run from Monday to Friday and most take place in Oxford. The school also uses elements of the global EMBA approach, with at least two modules taking place internationally.
One of the main advantages of the modular EMBA in terms of time management is the freedom it gives to participants to plan ahead. Modules typically spread out evenly over the course of the programme, which allows students to make fixed arrangements with their companies before the start of the programme. To make their lives easier in terms of logistics, some students specifically opt for programmes based in the city in which they live.
Artis Kakonge, Modular Executive MBA 2019 at Cass Business School (UK) says: “I wanted to study in London as this was the most realistic option given my busy work schedule and I knew being based in London would provide a very diverse cohort.” The modular EMBA at Cass takes place over a long weekend (Friday - Monday), the third weekend of each month, over the course of 24 months. Kakonge admits that sometimes it can be difficult. “The EMBA is a challenging course of study on top of a full-time job. The time between each EMBA weekend flies by and there is a wealth of information for you to grasp.”
The blended EMBA format comes as a result of universities and business schools incorporating online elements into the classroom over the years, creating programmes that integrate digital and face-to-face learning in various ways. It is true that online programmes give executives more freedom to fit the coursework into their schedules, but the lack of face-to-face interaction and limited networking opportunities make this format less appealing to business professionals who are looking for the full EMBA experience. Blended EMBAs attract executives who appreciate the flexibility of online learning but don’t want to forgo networking and face-to-face meetings.
IE Business School (Spain) acknowledges that today’s fast-paced professionals need flexible programmes that take into account their hectic schedules and lifestyles, but also require engagement and commitment. “Getting an education doesn’t have to mean pumping the brakes on the other aspects of your life. With the blended learning format, you can balance work, school, and your social life in an integrated and efficient way,” reads the description of IE’s blended EMBA programme.
IESE (Spain) also offers a number of programmes in the blended format. Its Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) also combines half a dozen residential modules with online learning between modules. The school is a proponent of the format, stressing that: “With blended programmes, you´ll have access to the coursework over an extended period to digest it at your own pace. No more cramming to read and take in everything all at once.”
The Global EMBA format includes a wide array of programmes designed to help experienced business professionals gain a global understanding of different cultures, team dynamics, and business practices. Participants in global EMBA programmes typically have the opportunity to spend time on campuses in different countries. The diversity of locations allows them to interact with various industries and witness how management theories and practices play out in different business settings. Many of the Global EMBA programmes are also modular.
The modular Global Executive MBA programme (GEMBA) of INSEAD (France) takes place in fully integrated campuses in three regions: Europe (France), Asia (Singapore) and the Middle East (Abu Dhabi). Most people opt to start on the campus that’s closest to home. The programme requires only 51 to 60 days away from work over a period of 14 to 17 months.
Andy Bushell, Global Programme Head at Novartis who graduated from the programme in 2017, admits the course is challenging, but it is also an opportunity for executives to test their ability to delegate and distribute responsibilities. Bushell says: “I put a lot of effort, prior to the course, into empowering my people at work so they could step up and assume more responsibility.”
Milena Bowman, Occurrence Manager, Eurocontrol, who graduated in 2016 highlights a long-term perspective of her EMBA experience: “It’s only by setting an example that we’ll change things for the next generation of women. One of my proudest moments was when my seven-year-old son told me he plans to stay at home and look after his children while his wife goes to university.”
Irrespective of the format you choose, you need the full support of your employer and your family. You will also need a great deal of dedication and commitment because, let’s face it, despite all the efforts of business schools to make life easier for business professionals, the EMBA is a rewarding, yet challenging endeavour. But what is it that senior managers can do best? Prioritise and make worthwhile investments of their time. This is what they need to benefit from an EMBA.