“The Lord has a perfect filing system,” the professor said. “Nothing stays forever, we come in, and we go out when it is time.” Fifty healthcare professionals from across West Africa nodded in agreement.
On the screen behind him was a picture of an overfilled file room at a West African health clinic stuffed with a mess of patient folders. The professor used this opening to explain how efficient filing systems can be designed to ensure information is kept relevant and organized, and systematically discarded when outdated or unlikely to be of use any further.
This isn’t how I would imagine a Health Information Systems class would begin. But I am in Accra at the Ghana Institute for Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) for the Management Development Institute (MDI) program, which is funded by Johnson & Johnson to provide practical management and leadership training to healthcare professionals in Africa.
By invoking a cultural touchstone so personally understood and socially significant, the professor was able to make even filing systems relatable.
He showed a picture of a simple innovation in file marking that allows any person looking at a file shelf to know if something is out of place. He shared a story about an overworked nurse in another clinic having to juggle three different forms for the same patient for different parts of their treatment on the same day, and what problems that cause for the nurse, the clinic and the patient’s care.
The participants were with him every step of the way. These examples from clinics just like the ones they work with every day made the theory come to life. It wasn’t just a lesson about efficient and effective information systems, it was about that time they had two files for a patient and one didn’t have her allergies listed. It was about how they could make the most of the limited space and time resources they had to serve patients within their everyday reality.
For me, this was a glowing representation of the reason that GBSN is so focused on locally relevant management education. Local examples, culturally relevant teaching styles, and faculty having practical understanding of the material they teach make theory real for learners.
Management and leadership are ultimately about practice. So management education must provide learners with accessible knowledge and skills that they can apply in their work.
This is why GBSN works to support schools in the developing world in their efforts to provide this kind of education to students and professionals. Every day we work with and through our member schools to make connections, share knowledge, manage programs and foster collaborations to build the capacity to deliver quality, locally relevant management education for the developing world. It was wonderful to be able to experience that mission in action.
GBSN is the coordinator for MDI, which is offered 5 times per year across Africa in English, French and for the first time in 2017, Portuguese.
Page Buchanan is the Chief Operating Officer at the Global Business School Network