Whitehall attacked for meddling in industry

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The Independent Online

Bad managers are not to blame for Britain's poor record on productivity, one of the world's leading management experts said yesterday in a government-sponsored report.

Bad managers are not to blame for Britain's poor record on productivity, one of the world's leading management experts said yesterday in a government-sponsored report.

Professor Michael Porter of Harvard acquits managers of the accusation of damaging mediocrity made by Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, when she commissioned the report. Instead, he said the problem was more closely linked to "weaknesses" in the economy and urged the Government to stop meddling.

Ms Hewitt commissioned the research last autumn, saying the average UK manager was "lagging well behind" their international counterparts.

Professor Porter said the role of managers could not be divorced from issues of overall competitiveness facing the UK. "UK management performance in many ways ... reflects weaknesses in the business environment," he said. "Management practices are not at the core of the UK competitiveness challenge."

He said UK companies needed investment decisions to move away from competing on low costs towards producing innovative goods and services.

Professor Porter urged Whitehall to "let go" of controlling policy choices, a comment that will be taken as criticism of Labour's microeconomic policies. The Tories said the report showed that competitiveness had weakened under Labour despite the benign economic background. Tim Yeo, their industry spokesman, said: "Patricia Hewitt has been keen to blame British managers in the past, but this report points to a 'weak and deteriorating' infrastructure, including a growing skills gap and diminishing future innovation."

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