Wed, Jul 25, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Nurturing your own ideas is key to productivity

Managers need to learn to look outward at customers and competitors and inward to develop their own signature practices

By Simon Caulkin  /  THE OBSERVER , LONDON

That is because managers are astonishingly bad at assessing their own performance. More than 85 percent of managers in the LSE study believed their company was better managed than the average, and self-assessed scores "have almost no link" with firm performance or the marks awarded by the researchers.

More broadly, the AIM research identifies the context for good practice as critical. Indirect support for that comes from the LSE finding that although there are relative differences in national scores (the UK scores well for people management and less well for operations, for example), "no single dimension provides the key for improved management performance" -- good firms are well managed across all performance aspects. The implication is that a firm can't just import an attractive practice: It has to have the underpinnings in place to support it -- including the awareness that it is needed in the first place.

So when it is said that British managers are notoriously reluctant to adopt promising practices, this is true but not very helpful, tantamount to saying that the UK is not very good at management.

To break out of the circle of inertia, the key seems to be to get managers looking both outward -- as much to customers as to other companies to get an accurate bearing on their real competitive position; and inward -- to develop their own "signature" practices, based on their own values and history, that will distinguish them from others in the eyes of customers.

As with fruit and vegetables, home-grown is best.

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