People are a vital statistic

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The Independent Online
THERE is certainly no shortage of management books on the shelves. So why should a busy chief executive want to add to their number?

Neville Bain, head of the Coats Viyella textiles group, says it was born of his occasional lectures at his old university, Otago, in New Zealand. And he accepts that it must have something to do with ego.

He is the first to admit that it offers few original insights or thoughts, but he hopes it complements other volumes available through its foundation in the practical experience of its author and other managers he encountered in the course of the survey that kicks off Successful Management.

Mr Bain, who was previously finance director at Cadbury Schweppes, is at heart a numbers man - he will expound at will on the return on cost of capital and discounted cash flow - but he is also deeply interested in the people dimension.

Sadly, his survey shows that although just about everybody else says they share this interest, they only devote a small fraction of their working hours to it. "I really want aspiring general managers and managers to think about these things," he says. However, the accountant in him acknowledges that there is a general cynicism about "things other than shareholder value".

He sees commitment to developing people as vital in this time of monumental and constant change. But he also sees a need for managers to develop definite "disciplines" if they are going to go all the way to the top.

Agreeing with the view of another writer that management is like a performing art, Mr Bain believes that future chief executives are going to have to be good communicators. The ability to develop the right strategy - which in turn requires the intellectual capability to get to the nub of the problem - is obviously important. But the strategy cannot be put in place without the ability to communicate it. Likewise, leadership is largely about communicating with subordinates and colleagues.

And he dismisses the notion that communicators are born rather than made. "I found communication very difficult," he says.

q 'Successful Management', by Neville Bain, is published by Macmillan Business, pounds 25.