By John A. Byrne
(Poets&Quants) -- When Betsy Ziegler applied to Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in the mid-1990s, she was rejected outright. Ziegler, instead, got her MBA degree from Harvard Business School.
As Kellogg's associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students, Ziegler likes to joke that it took her 15 years to finally get inside the school. Since arriving little more than a year ago, however, the former McKinsey & Co. partner has swooped in like the master consultant she has been and turned over every rock and pebble in the place.
Ziegler, 41, isn't the only McKinsey partner to decamp at a business school. Only this year, former McKinsey partners took over the B-school deanships at Johns Hopkins University and Northeastern University. But Ziegler's role brings her much closer to the nitty-gritty operational details that can make or break a premier MBA program.
In all probability, it is the first time that a business school's core operations have been as meticulously examined and dissected. Ziegler has deployed early "engagement interviews," "touch point maps," "gap analysis," "product portfolio reviews," and even "exit interviews" with recent graduates to get under the hood of the MBA experience. Kellogg Dean Sally Blount calls her "an operations genius."
Ziegler is a frenetic dynamo and a self-described geek. Words tumble out of her like bullets from an automatic weapon. An inordinate whiteboard scribbler, she'll ferociously draw charts and diagrams to illustrate every point. "Give me a whiteboard and a pen and I go," she laughs. Facts and figures back up all assertions, opinions, and hypotheses. "I am a data monkey," she concedes. "I am used to using data to make decisions." That's why her team spent six months building a "business intelligence data architecture" that could spit out the answer to virtually any numbers-based question she posed.
Yet students, many of whom have dubbed her "Dean Z," have also forged close relationships with her. "One of the most defining things about Dean Ziegler is that she has an open door policy and students use it," says Jenna Giordano, a second-year MBA candidate who is president of the Kellogg Student Association. "So a lot of students have formed personal relationships with her."
All of this is in the service of ensuring that Kellogg, long known for having a student-driven culture with an emphasis on collaboration, can deliver the most distinctive MBA experience in the world. "When I say we want to deliver a distinctive student experience, my language is not relative to my six or nine peer schools," says Ziegler. "I want people to feel here how they feel when they fly Singapore Airlines, order room service at a Ritz Carlton, return shoes to Zappos, or walk into an Apple store. You feel embraced and supported and every single detail is thought about."
Ziegler says this in all seriousness and with a passion that confirms she is hell-bent on making it happen. "I know from my previous life that those companies all have a set of things that they all do. None of those things have anything to do with being a for-profit institution. They are things like hiring the right people, giving work meaning … and improving what you do every day…."
When she started at Kellogg in June 2011, she spent her first four weeks doing what every McKinsey consultant does at the start of an assignment: learning what people in the organization already know. She met one-on-one with 90 Kellogg staffers "to know how they spend their time and their view of what impact they have on the students." More
The school plans to put less of an emphasis on its traditional two-year degree program as part of a sweeping strategic review at the school.
By John A. Byrne, contributor
(Poets&Quants) -- Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management said today it plans to shrink the size of its two-year MBA program by up to 25% and double or triple the enrollment in the school's one-year MBA program for business undergraduates.
"It's very clear MOREFeb 6, 2012 2:18 PM ET
While the first 100 days of the newly minted dean augur well for Kellogg, there is still much work to be done at a school that has lost momentum, if not its edge, among the business school elite.
By John A. Byrne, contributor
During her first 100 days as dean of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Sally Blount's calendar looked like the schedule of a politician in the heat of MORENov 24, 2010 10:32 AM ET
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