Northwestern’s New Triple-M Makeover

The Triple-M Class of 2015 students

The Triple-M Class of 2015 students

It has been nearly a quarter of a century since Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management partnered with the university’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science to launch a then novel program, a Master’s in Management and Manufacturing.

At the time, manufacturing in the U.S. had been in a severe decline, Japan’s manufacturing prowess had aroused fears over the ability of the U.S. to compete on the world stage, and both China and India had little impact on the global economy. In 1988, MIT Sloan launched its Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM) program and three years later in 1991 Kellogg debuted its so-called “Triple-M program” when Japan and other overseas rivals were challenging U.S. manufacturing dominance in the automotive industry. Back then, few universities offered dual degree programs of any kind.

Through the years, Kellogg and McCormick tweaked its MMM program to keep it fresh and graduated some 1,019 men and women with MMMs. Now, after a review that included feedback from hundreds of corporate recruiters, students and alumni, the schools have done a more substantial makeover of the program that will launch in June of 2014 with the Class of 2016. The changes broaden the original appeal of the program from making things to designing things and managing new product innovation.

MMM WILL NOW BE SEVEN QUARTERS LONG, UP FROM SIX QUARTERS

The changes extend the program by a full quarter to seven from six, adds seven new engineering-based electives, and increases the number of credits required to graduate to 28.5 from 24.5. The “enhanced” program retains its rigorous focus on business and design innovation with a new foundation in technology. The alternations are designed to make MMM grads especially more attractive to companies hiring for product management roles,

Elizabeth “Betsy” Ziegler, associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students at Kellogg, said the enhanced program is the result of a “product portfolio” in which Kellogg systematically reviewed all its programs to keep them fresh and up to date.

“We thought that there was an opportunity for us to better match what the marketplace was asking for,” she said in an interview with Poets&Quants. “We had hundreds of conversations with recruiters, students and faculty. What we found through those conversations is that we could dive deeper into design and add a component of technology. Many alums said they saw a gap on the product management front. They told us that if we could graduate students with hands-on experience driving a design process and also understand technology, we will eat them up.”

MMM graduate, he adds, are positioned to become product managers able to design end-to-end solutions. You can find them in those roles at companies such as Samsung, Starbucks, Nike, Yelp, Nissan, Microsoft and others.

SCHOOLS EXPECT COMPANIES TO HIRE MORE MMM GRADS FOR PRODUCT MANAGEMENT ROLES

The schools also believe that the changes will make the Triple-M program more attractive to recruiting companies who especially need people in product innovation. “We were having a lot of interesting conversations in terms of new recruiting opportunities for our students,” added Greg Holderfield, director of the Segal Design Institute and co-director of the MMM program. “We had historically been looking at companies that were engineering-manufacturing centric companies and it was moving toward product innovation. So we are offering more coursework in that space and think it will catch fire.”

MMM students, who used to begin the program when Kellogg’s two-year MBA students arrived on campus in August, will now start in June with one MBA and one engineering class, when Kellogg’s one-year MBA students start class. Yet, incoming MMM students also will participate in pre-term and orientation activities with incoming second-year MBA students. They will graduate two years later in June, after a quarter off for an internship. The schools added seven new courses in the makeover and also created additional support within its employer relations team to help MMM graduates with “differentiated job searches,” says Ziegler.

The new classes, all in the engineering school. include those in programming, service design, design research, organizing for innovation, and innovation frontiers. A fair number of the new courses had been available only to engineering graduate students but have been revamped exclusively for MMM students who will now take them as a cohort.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.