Marco Nowinski is a Visiting Lecturer at Essex Business School. He leads the Sustainable Operations module on our MBA programme and contributes to our series of Director’s Workshops. In this blog, he showcases a recent Director’s Workshop on peer-coaching and explains how students on The Essex MBA were able to use the session to enhance their own management practice.

“Management is a practice,” says Professor Henry Mintzberg. And he should know, having studied management for 50 years, and having written 20 management books and hundreds of articles and commentaries. The Wall Street Journal ranked Henry Mintzberg the world’s ninth most influential thinker and FastCompany calls him ’One of the most original minds in management’.

His approach to management has always favoured the practical: “Management is a practice, it is not a science, it is not a profession, you learn it by doing …” This is the mantra of his work and research.

As a result, he does not stop at just thinking about management, he puts it into practice. In 2007 he co-founded CoachingOurselves, a peer-coaching system to bring his approach to management and leadership development directly into organisations.

As The Essex MBA focuses on the essential knowledge and skills needed by tomorrow’s managers and leaders, we incorporated a module developed by Henry Mintzberg as a workshop into the curriculum. In collaboration with CoachingOurselves, we ran the session ‘Managing on the planes’ with our MBA students. This online workshop was moderated by Phil LeNir (President of CoachingOurselves) and I. Students were divided into four or five person teams and during 90 minutes discussed the practice of ‘Managing on the planes of information, people and action’, following a discussion guide developed by Henry Mintzberg. 

Many of the students are practising managers already, on average having between seven and ten years of work experience. In this peer-coaching session they took a deep-dive into the Mintzberg Model of Managing and benefited not only from the guidance of one of the world’s premier management thinkers, but also from each other’s experience and the follow-up review with Phil LeNir and me. 

Students commented on this experience and novel way of learning, saying:

“This ‘Coaching Ourselves’ session was brilliantly delivered by Marco and Phil and gave us students the opportunity to reflect on our own work experiences and those of our groups, guided by Henry Mintzberg’s model.

The two hosts’ healthy blend of theoretical knowledge, industry experience and enthusiasm for the ‘Coaching Ourselves’ system led to a credible and useful session which made me reflect on my natural position as a manager.” - Anthony Jackson, MBA 2022

“This experience and the interaction within the session has really opened up new ways of thinking and perspectives that were very insightful to everyday working life, and what I’m most grateful for was the opportunity to share it with my colleagues and get to know them better as well.” - Eddie Zentani, MBA 2022

“Personally, I enjoyed this session with fellow students and subsequent facilitation by Phil LeNir and Marco Nowinski. I'm fortunate to learn management theories and practice from the world's best, Henry Mintzberg. His book has been inspirational, simple to read and practically relevant. It can even be used as an aide-memoir on the shop floor where practical management comes to life” - Samuel Olatigbe, MBA 2022

Besides finding ways of improving their own management practice, the Essex MBA students will bring benefits to their current or future employers by using such peer-learning concepts in their organisations.