A $39,000 MBA Program Based On Jack Welch’s Leadership Ideals

Jack Welch

Jack Welch

When legendary General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch hired a headhunter to search for new deans of curriculum and faculty for his online management institute, he had an unusual requirement. “Jack didn’t like pie-in-the-sky academic types,” says Michael Kirkman, a search consultant with Lochlin Partners.

Yet, Kirkman had little trouble rounding up a pretty impressive portfolio of candidates. “Everybody was very interested, particularly with Jack’s name attached to it,” adds Kirkman. “A lot of them are just tired of the bureaucracy and garbage that goes on in traditional academic environments.”

Welch ultimately hired Craig Clawson, former managing director of Duke Corporate Education, as dean of curriculum, and Mike Zeliff, a faculty member at George Washington University and a former marketing director for the U.S. Marine Corps, as the dean of faculty.

‘MOST BUSINESS SCHOOLS ARE DISCONNECTED FROM BEST BUSINESS PRACTICES’

Both hires go a long way in telegraphing the fact that the four-year-old Jack Welch Management Institute is one of the very few business schools that is run like a business, with a laser-like focus on customer service. The school is closely managed on student surveys that measure the impact of the education as well as the likelihood that a student would recommend the institute to a friend or colleague.

At JWMI, every administrator and faculty member understands that students are customers. In fact, the incentive pay of the core leadership team–up to 25% of their annual base salaries–is based on satisfying those customers. Net Promoter Scores, the metric Welch is using to monitor student satisfaction, are widely discussed among the leadership team, even down to such scores on the 12 courses that make up the MBA curriculum.

“We’re running this school the way we would run a company,” insists Welch, who turned 80 last month. “Most business schools are disconnected from best business practices. It’s not that they don’t teach them. They just don’t practice them. In our school, the students are the customers. In every other school, the faculty is the customer.”

That approach to an online MBA program based on Welch’s leadership beliefs has led to fast growth at a time when the overall MBA market has been flat or in decline. The school has increased its student population to more than 1,000 MBA students in four years and expects to boost enrollment to 1,400 students in 2016 (see chart below). This year MBA enrollment jumped 35% to 1,057 students, from 782 in 2014.

  • slowtalk

    JWMI is not AACSB accredited, although they are ACBSP accredited. I have read that the AACSB is harder to quality for if your university does not have a strong (expensive) business research capability, which is a shame because the AACSB is seen as the “gold” standard for business school accreditation.

    • JohnAByrne

      That is true and it’s unlikely the institute could ever gain accreditation from the AACSB because of its business model that is dependent on teachers who do little to no research.

      • TennisGuy

        What a shame! A School where primary focus is on “Teaching” their students vs. finding some obscure topic to publish on… 😉

  • Greg Marchi

    Way to go Craig Clawson an awesome hire, I had the privilege of working with him for several years at Duke CE. Craig will do great things for Jack.

  • Reaver

    I’m really courious how their students manage after graduation, as this sounds like a proper ‘business’ school concept.
    I guess we come back to the question who shold be a lecturer at business schools, a person who produced a ton of research but has never had any success in business or someone who has succeeded but has no academic background.