Reinterpretation of the role of business schools in the formation of the professional manager: The birth of executive education at Harvard Business School

Rolv Petter Amdam

In a Chandlerian perspective the managerial revolution drove the rise of the business schools in the US, and business schools contributed back by graduating professional managers. Before World War II, the effect of the MBA degree was, however, modest. At Harvard Business School, the MBA program’s modest impact on top executives’ formation created great concern. In order to increase this impact, and fulfill their obligation to complete the transformation that later was named managerial revolution, the business school began in the mid-1920s to develop non-degree programs for top or potential top executives. By drawing on experiences from some short-lived programs and the extra-ordinary situation during the war when the school was transformed to a military academy in business, Harvard Business School in 1945 launched their Advanced Management Program that soon became a global role model for executive education.

Since historical studies of business education has focused on business schools as degree-granting institutions, the historical role of non-degree executive education has been neglected. The paper is based on intensive research of HBS’s archives.