Quality managers sieved out

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The Independent Online
EVERYONE from fund managers to journalists talks glibly of 'the quality of management'. We say: 'The quality of the management sets this company apart,' or, 'Doubts over the quality of management lead us to question whether that company can succeed.' But rarely is any attempt made to explain the term.

Later this week, however, we should have a better idea. At a ceremony at Trinity House in London, Sundridge Park Management Centre and Mori Financial will announce the first winners of a competition designed to highlight the management attributes companies need to exhibit to succeed in the future. Recipients of the Quality of Management Awards - which will be presented in each of the next five years - will essentially be chosen by the three groups Mori Financial has been canvassing for more than 20 years: senior executives, fund managers, and business journalists. The 18 criteria attempting to define quality of management have been devised by Sundridge Park, the south London-based executive training centre.

The categories range from the obvious, such as leadership and general management skills, to the less-recognised - market research and brand development. People development is seen as especially important.

Each of the three groups was asked to rate the criteria in order of importance and indicate in which of them British companies are weak or strong, before nominating those that applied them most effectively.

John Chadwick, Sundridge Park's chief executive, said: 'The objective of these awards lies far beyond a prize-giving ceremony. Our real intention is to highlight the fact that although institutions and shareholders buy stocks, they are investing in people and their capabilities. It is our firm conviction that people make the critical difference.'

Roger Stubbs, Mori's financial chairman, is equally keen to look beyond the ceremony. Pointing out that there are many lessons to be learnt from finding out what emphasis each of the three voting groups places on which criteria, he said he hoped there would be a 'considerable knock-on effect' in improving management standards.

At the root of the awards is a conviction that management quality is not a peripheral matter but an issue central to corporate governance. Sir Adrian Cadbury, chairman of the committee on the financial aspects of corporate governance - which reported a year ago - will present the awards.

He said it was an imaginative idea that fitted his view of corporate governance as a way of getting people to think about how boards work as well as seeking to give precision to the term 'quality of management'.

Perhaps more importantly, it raised the question of training. He pointed out that a recent survey had shown that only 7 per cent of executive directors had received any training before taking on their roles. 'Many of us regard it as a good thing for other people but not for us,' he added.

Here too, the awards seek to provide a corrective. The top three companies will receive fully tailored corporate development programmes worth a total of pounds 100,000.

(Photograph omitted)