Management: The right tools for the job, or how to call a spade a spade

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The Independent Online
Managers the world over use the same methods, reports Roger Trapp. But jargon can be a problem.

Britain's most popular management tool is the mission statement, followed by customer satisfaction measurement and strategic planning, says a report by the Institute of Management and Bain & Co, the strategy consultants.

The study, "Managing the Management Tools," also reveals that the same tools figure world-wide, with three of the top four the same in Europe, Asia and North America.

Predictably, 78 per cent of Britain's managers believe companies that use the right tools are more likely to succeed than those that do not, but 68 per cent say they are satisfied with the tools they use. However, a warning comes in the finding that fully 71 per cent of UK managers think the use of jargon - "benchmarking", "total quality management", "re- engineering" - is confusing.

Moreover, there is evidence that tools are not always as effective as they might be, because they are not used properly. This sounds like an echo of the complaint from James Champy and Michael Hammer, the business process re-engineering pioneers, that such initiatives often failed because people had misunderstood their message, but Roger Young, director- general of the Institute of Management, does add that management tools "are not a magic wand". Pointing out that tools are too often allowed to take control and replace sound management practice, he says: "Managers must learn to use them properly."

A full 93 per cent of UK managers believe that the key to this is commitment from top executives, while 82 per cent say that tools should be tailored to the needs of the organisation.

There is no sign of this enthusiasm for techniques going away. Managers world-wide expect to increase their use, with financial results a priority.