Management Lessons from North Korea

Pyongyang is probably the last place most people look to for management practices to include in the Harvard Business Review. But still, its always interesting to understand the management lessons participants distill from programs. After all, management is one of the tougher areas for participants to summarize their learning. Unlike other technical fields, management is a “soft” subject where learning is most effectively achieved through a mix of observation, practice and reflection. The subject of management came up when I met with a program alumnus. The alumnus mentioned that over the course of several meetings with various business managers in a range of enterprises, he felt that the good managers shared a few common traits:

1. They have strong technical skills relevant to their respective industries 2. They have strong managerial skills and the ability to manage and lead a team effectively 3. They were able to set a vision for the team, and motivate people with the vision

While such lessons might seem banal to those of us bombarded by management-speak everyday, it struck me as interesting. Many program participants have a tendency to focus on technical skillsets and technology as a solution to all economic problems. Thus it was interesting to hear a participant highlight points 2 and 3 as key takeaways from a program.