mba education and stakeholder theory


Yesterday’s WSJ has a short article about how several business schools are revamping their curriculum to make it more interdisciplinary – see here. This quote caught my eye (it is referring to changes being made at Yale):

Instead of the traditional compartmentalized courses, students this fall will learn the basics from the viewpoint of a company’s external stakeholders and internal constituents. These “organizational perspectives” courses will include customer, competitor, investor, employee, innovator, the state and society, the ” operations engine,” and the sourcing and managing of funds.

It is interesting to see the ‘stakeholder’ language making its way into business school education.

I have always struggled with the “theory” part of stakeholder theory. What exactly is the theory and its claims? My best reading of this literature is that it presently is a hodgepodge of competing claims about the role that suppliers, society, government, the environment (external constituents), and, employees and managers (internal constituents) should play in organizational behavior. I suppose everyone has their favorite stakeholder they would like to pitch. But, is that the theory? What else is there?

Written by teppo

July 12, 2006 at 5:27 pm

Posted in education, teppo

7 Responses

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  1. I was very impressed with your argument at the last Academy meeting that ‘stakeholder theory’ is muddle-speak for denying the managerial relevance of economics.

    As far as Alsop’s piece goes I felt it is deja vue all over again. I cannot tell you how often people have tried this, only to fail in bewilderment at the academic institution’s fondness for ‘silos’. The supporters of ‘inter-disciplinary’ courses do not seem to understand that faculty cannot afford to engage them, since they carry the stigma of turning their backs on their professional training and knowledge assets.

    Now Joel Podolny is a smart guy and highly political cool mover. He is no naif, so I wonder what’s really going on at Yale – which has a long history of not dancing to the conventional tune.



    July 13, 2006 at 3:03 am

  2. I understand from folks who were there – that part of the “not dancing to the conventional tune” – was the abolishment of their management (OB and strategy) department, though they now appear to have more mgt scholars.



    July 13, 2006 at 5:13 pm

  3. […] Don’t we all have our favorite stakeholders and causes? I think this line of argument, in part, illustrates the problems of stakeholder “theory” (see this previous post). […]


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