Navigating the nation’s school of business

Monday, 14 July 2014 00:49 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

I commenced working as the Acting Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) from last Thursday. It is a complex, challenging role that demands competence and commitment. The leadership of PIM has passed from one generation to another. I thought it is an opportune time to reflect on PIM in specific and the role of management education in general. Overview PIM is a semi-autonomous body affiliated to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. I went through the interesting details contained in its website. PIM aims to promote advanced education and professionalism in management in Sri Lanka through the provision of postgraduate instruction, training, research, and development in the various branches of management and administrative studies. Today, it serves the national interests of professional management education and training on a wider scale providing challenging opportunities for learning and skills development to thousands of senior-level managers and administrators. Being the pioneer of advanced management education in Sri Lanka, PIM provides leadership to those who are in the business of innovating and disseminating management know-how as well as to those who are in search of higher learning alternatives. The history of the Institute goes back to 1981 when a Division of Postgraduate Studies was set up at the Faulty of Management Studies of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. The Division started postgraduate studies in management with a collaboration with two Canadian Universities – Ottawa University and Carleton University. In 1986, the Division was upgraded to a separate Institute under the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.                             The new Institute was formally set up at a rented building at Sri Saranankara Road, Dehiwala in April 1986 and it continued to operate from there up to 1994 when the Institute was moved to the new building constructed at Lesley Ranagala Mawatha, Colombo 8. The institute has produced so far almost 3,000 MBA and MPA graduates and diplomas. It holds Convocations of its own, in time intervals of approximately 18 months. Prof. Gunapala Nanayakkara, Dr. Kanthi Kamalgoda, Dr. Basil Perera, Prof. Uditha Liyanage and Prof. Mangala Fonseka were the former Directors who steered PIM from strength to strength.   The University of Sri Jayewardenepura, to which PIM is affiliated, is 41 years old. In fact, it is much older if one counts the long years of its history as a seat of learning. The history of this Institute dates back more than a century to 1873, when the Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thero laid the foundation of this distinguished centre of learning as a pirivena (Institute of Buddhist and Oriental Studies) named Vidyodaya (meaning ‘awakening of knowledge’). In 1958, it was reconstituted as the Vidyodaya University of Ceylon by an Act of Parliament. Under the Universities Act of 1978, it was re-named ‘University of Sri Jayewardenepura’ in the new administrative capital of Sri Lanka. Today, its full-time student population is over 4,500 enrolled in the faculties of Arts, Management Studies and Commerce, Applied Sciences, Medical Sciences, and Graduate Studies. Our intent As a pioneer in advanced management education in South Asia, we endeavour to embody the knowledge and practice of management in the national and international contexts of management. As we have been saying with pride so far, we intend to fashion management education and innovation in the Fivefold Path of Vision, Effort, Harmony, Restraint and Caring. Our task has always been to develop leaders who will direct the energies of their men and women along the Fivefold Path and produce managers who will create value in their enterprises for the benefit of the larger society. We, at the Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) in Sri Lanka, strongly believe that civilised human progress in modern times requires: Knowledge-based study, strongly supported by action-learning, Continuous development of competence to perform, Unwavering commitment to disciplined professionalism and Devotion to innovation for the creation of value. These are the four pillars of our program philosophy. We earnestly expect all those who enter our Institute to be imbued with this philosophy. Our business is about mastery I thought it is worthwhile reflecting on what Prof. Uditha Liyanage has stated in his message to the PIM website, as the institute’s Professor of Management. Nothing worthwhile is achieved easily. Success is achieved when the right things are done right at the right time. This is particularly true in business. One word for ‘getting it right’ is mastery. Mastery of the task at hand, the people around, and over the conditions that prevail leads to success in business, as it does in life. Our MBA and other programs are designed to help their participants who have a global mind-set but a local ‘feel’, to gain mastery over the markets in which they operate. They do so by beating competition, and on occasion, by making competition irrelevant. Indeed, they create value not by merely transforming materials into products or through routine transactions, but by engaging in knowledge-driven tacit interactions. We set out our mission over two decades ago to help Sri Lankan managers become masters of the destiny of the organisations they direct and manage. This mission has brought forth over two and a half thousand business leaders in the country. PIM’s central intent is to transform mere practitioners into professional managers. The former depends almost entirely on past experience and anecdotal evidence. The latter, the professional manager does fuse personal experience with a body of knowledge based on the formal learning of concepts, frameworks and theories. This results in the professional manager seeing that which (s)he encounters differently, and then doing things in a way that is different to the actions of a manager who can only boast of the years behind him/her. The outstanding results the professional manager will be getting, as a consequence, is the ultimate reward. PIM brings the reward of outstanding results to those professional managers who strive towards mastery. What we offer Masters courses at PIM, particularly the MBA, has earned a name for producing thought leaders to the nation. In brief, leaders who can think and act without just acting. We harp on the need to ‘be a MBA’ than to ‘have a MBA’. This is of high relevance in the context of current environment. With the ever-changing demands in the business world today enterprises need more professionals to drive businesses ahead. A professional is a person who approaches a problematic or a situation with a particular structured approach by using the body of knowledge by applying specific skills for the situation. An MBA essentially caters for developing such professionalism. Hence the ultimate goal of the MBA is to develop professionals who can produce results in a more systematic, consistent and sustainable manner. In other words, professionals who will possess a holistic view of a situation and who will innovate new ways of thinking through the ability to think on feet and thus will solve the problematic with an appropriate, systematic and a structured manner. Therefore the MBA should produce professionals for the business world. The Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is based on a needs assessment of the transversal knowledge requirements of executive level officers of the public service. Most public servants belong to a transferable service. They have to, therefore, acquire transversal knowledge, which could hold them in good stead in any assignment. Such knowledge has to be reinforced by institution-specific knowledge but the former facilitates creative application of the latter. A novel course delivery system is adopted employing techniques of blended learning, combining distance education with the traditional ‘face-to- face’ method. Research to the forefront PIM has revitalised its research focus with the setting up of its dedicated research centre. It coordinates a vibrant doctoral program with links with leading researchers local and overseas. We believe in creating ‘world class researchers,’ with right quality and quantity. Managerial issues with national, regional and global significance will be our focus in shedding light to better understanding. Research collaboration with overseas institutes has already begun. We see a bright future for aspiring management academics through our research endeavours. Sri Lankan Journal of Management (SLJM), a publication of PIM and the only sustained management journal throughout years is moving towards a reputed journal ranking. We will work towards international accreditation for our teaching and research which will be a sure way to attract more learners from South Asian region. Hence, the path is well set for solidifying PIM as the South Asia’s centre for academic excellence. Flying higher PIM has been in the forefront in breeding thought leaders with character and competence. They are equipped with cutting-edge knowledge and complementary skills needed to perform in both private and public sectors alike. In producing them with clarity and commitment, PIM has always been a centre of excellence in management education with its winds spreading beyond Sri Lanka. Excellence is all about being exceptionally good. When applied to enterprises, it involves exceptional achievements in a consistent manner. That’s what PIM is proud of being a self-financed, semi-autonomous public entity. Now the time has come to expand our reach, regionally and globally through research and teaching. The leadership of PIM has been entrusted with another generation. Adhering to best practices with appropriate use of technology is the way forward in ensuring enhanced quality and relevance in all our initiatives. PIM will continue to produce value in practicing values, as the nation’s school of business. In doing so, we will strive to fly higher. (Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is the Acting Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Division of Management and Entrepreneurship, Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA.)

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