The basics that management must get right

Really good article in recent Harvard Business Review asks ‘Does management really work?’ and comes up with some damning answers.  Based on extensive international research by a team of economists, Nicholas Bloom, Raffaela Sadun and John Van Reenen provide substantial back-up to their claim that many organisations – in government, retail, healthcare, manufacturing and education – are badly managed.

So what do the well-managed organisations get right?

Three basic things: targets, incentives and monitoring. Bloom et al elaborate more on these in the HBR article, but in brief, what this means in practice is that high-performing organisations (yes, there is a correlation with well-managed) tend to:

  • Set challenging yet achievable short-term targets to progress towards long-term goals;
  • Incentivise performance by rewarding high performers and dealing with underperformers by training and/or moving them;
  • Collect and analyse a wide range of data, looking for opportunities to improve.

The organisation behind this extensive research is the World Management Survey and their site is well worth a trawl.  You can benchmark your own organisation against those in the database.

The questions used in the survey are also available on the site, and make interesting reading.  Here are just 10 that you might want to try to answer about your organisation:

  1. Can you briefly describe your day-to-day operations process?
  2. What makes it distinctive to work at your company as opposed to others?
  3. How are your targets linked to company performance and goals?
  4. Could you meet all your short-run goals but miss your long-run goals?
  5. What kind of KPIs would you use for performance tracking?
  6. How often do you review your KPIs?
  7. What sort of follow up plan would you leave these [review] meetings with?
  8. How do senior managers show that attracting and developing talent is a top priority?
  9. Are there any non-financial rewards for top performers?
  10. How long would underperformance be tolerated?

View the HBR article here 

View the survey questions here 

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