Drawing 101: Building the Foundations of Management Practice

The first module I teach to students on UCL’s new Management Science BSc/MSci programme is called The Art and Science of Management.

In this module, we explore the different types of things we work with in Management — Companies, Products, Processes, People, Systems, etc. — and what is takes to describe and understand them.

The alternative name for this module is Drawing 101.

This name was inspired by a quote from the UCL Slade School of Fine Art which describes:

“DRAWING as a means of articulating form and as a tool for THINKING”.

The languages, notations, and tools we use to describe the world fundamentally influence how we think.

The common vocabularies and frameworks we use to describe and understand the world of business are an important foundation of management practice. But few people are explicitly trained on these key building blocks or develop the skills required to use them effectively.

On the Management Science programme, we view the development of these critical skills in six stages:

  1. Observe
  2. Describe
  3. Compare
  4. Understand
  5. Design
  6. Redesign

Note: Stage 1–4 are included in Drawing 101. Stages 5–6 are developed during later modules (maybe we should call them Sculpture 101 — but that’s a subject for a future article).

I believe that the ability to accurately Observe and Describe (i.e. Draw) the different types of things we work with in Management are critical, but often woefully underdeveloped, skills.

Each of the stages of Drawing are complex, slow-learned skills. And can only be developed through practice — in the same way that artists develop their drawing skills through regular life drawing classes. And they require exercising Management Judgement.

On the Management Science programme, we use the Business Model Canvas as the core framework for describing Companies. Students are introduced to the framework in Year 1 Term 1, as part of the Art and Science of Management module, and use it systematically throughout the programme.

When faced with a new company or organisation, students are expected to research it in sufficient depth to be able to create a detailed Business Model Canvas.

But developing an appropriate Business Model Canvas for a complex organisation requires understanding the context in which it will be used and exercising judgement — Which Products and Services should we include in the Value Proposition section? Which Partners are important to include in the analysis and which are peripheral?