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Karl Moore strides along Ste. Catherine Street, a phalanx of foreign executives keeping pace, chatting amiably, looking up and around as Moore proudly points out landmarks.
The motley crew of Canadians, Indians, Koreans, Germans and Danes has just spent an intensive two weeks learning to become even better managers than they were when they left home.
They've heard McGill University management guru Henry Mintzberg describe management strategy as art, craft and analysis; they've sat through lectures and participated in workshops on everything from accounting to marketing to financial valuation; they've visited local corporations to glean best practices.
They will take this knowledge back to their companies, where they will presumably rise ever higher through management ranks, or for those already in the top echelon of their organizations, continue to lead by example with a fresh set of skills.
But tonight, they're going bowling.
"These managers spend a fair bit of time working together and this allows them to get to know each other in a relaxed setting. It builds teamwork and camaraderie," explained Moore, a professor at the Desautels School of Management, unofficial tour guide and leader of the local leg of the 10-week International Masters Program in Practicing Management.
The two dozen participants in the IMPM take part in five two-week ‘modules' at a host institution learning and working on a different management ‘mindset.' First, at Lancaster University in England, they focused on general management skills and the reflective mindset; then on to McGill, where attention turns to managing organizations and the analytic mindset; next will be the Institute of Management in Bangalore, India, for managing context and the worldly mindset; followed by two weeks at universities in Japan and Korea where they will learn about managing relationships and the collaborative mindset. The program closes at the famous INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France, with managing change and the action mindset.
All their hard work will eventually result in a master's degree from either Lancaster or McGill — but all work and no play can make for dull, detached managers, so a number of team-building activities have been built into the program.
Moore figured bowling would be a good way for the managers to let their hair down in the final days of the McGill module, the better to help them also build "a lifetime network" of colleagues and friends, he said.
That's how we end up at Sharx Pool Bar and Bowling in Faubourg Ste. Catherine on a Tuesday night.
By the time we reach the front door, we've split into chattering groups of two or three, but we all come together en masse at the check-in counter, where Moore takes care of business and those unfamiliar with the ritual chuckle as they shed their street footwear and don the requisite hideous bowling shoes.
We pretty much have the run of the place, this being a Tuesday night, and the booming house music and funky nightclub lights make it feel like our own private party.
If the idea is to bond, the idea seems to be a good one.
As a fellow student bowls a handy strike to the raucous delight of his teammates, Sugu Thuraisamy, owner and operator of Infinity-Pacific Stewardship Group, a small Vancouver-based forestry-stewardship company, smiles and says, "The most important thing is to learn about other people." And he likes what he's learning.
"I think the network I've built with a few folks here will be useful."
Kay Loewer, head of materials and processes for Airbus in Bremen, Germany, has also made some friends and has nothing but high praise for the IMPM.
"It's a great program that's different from everything you could get elsewhere," says Loewer, who oversees 170 employees back home. "Because everyone is from different nations, you get different opinions, different angles. In a short time, I feel like I'm getting great results."
Mathias Hermainski, director of service management in the airline management division of Germany's Lufthansa Systems, echoed Loewer's appraisal of the program — and agreed bowling night was a boon.
"It's good to have time off and not think about marketing and strategy," he says.
As is the case with most of the participants, Hermainski's company nominated him for participation in the prestigious IMPM.
"If you're nominated for this program, it's a big, big honour," he says. "I didn't need much time to say yes."
Though the program is made to build better managers, it quickly becomes apparent that it does little to improve bowling prowess. That said, the smiles, backslaps and high-fives leave little doubt that the IMPM has scored a strike with this international team of upwardly mobile managers.