From the TUC

They Just Don’t Get It #3: Short-sighted managers

08 Oct 2008, by in Working Life

OK, so I can’t compete with Nigel’s nomination of Lord Jones for today’s ‘They just don’t get it’ award (see Nigel’s post below), but I think some of our more short-sighted managers earn themselves second place.

Such short-sightedness is highlighted in a study released today by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The CIPD tells us: “A new CIPD study of 500 senior managers reveals organisations are failing to embrace management innovation … 

“Among the respondents, less than a quarter stated that management innovation was given a high level of attention in their organisations, compared with two-thirds (65%) who said their organisations were giving a high level of attention to product or service innovation. This is in spite of 8 out of ten agreeing that management innovation is a driver of long term success.”

It’s quite difficult for anyone to constructively criticise management. If the government do so, they are interfering with business. If the CBI do so, they are criticising their own members. If the TUC do so, it’s a cheap shot at the gaffer. Interestingly, if the TUC do so, they might be criticising their own members too.

All of which leads to a conspiracy of silence, in spite of the fact that most of us recognise there is a management deficit in this country. Whether we are talking about investment in skills, in high performance work practices or in the management innovation highlighted above, we know that the best companies perform well, but too many do not.

So we need to learn some lessons. One is that, whilst we would expect companies to act from enlightened self interest, many of them don’t. That makes their company uncompetitive. As we witness the growth of China and India, with their hundreds of thousands of skilled workers coming into the workforce each year, we can’t afford that lack of competitivness. Ultimately, companies will be threatened and jobs lost.

Another is that regulation is a legitimate subject for discussion. We can’t, of course, regulate for innovative management, but companies need to know that they have a responsibility, to skill their workforce, for example, and if they duck that responsibility, government has a right to take action.

A third lesson, this time for government, is to drop the obsession with policy organisations being “business-led”. if business-led organisations are developing policy, while many of our companies avoid doing what is right, we end up with policies that legitimise poor behaviour. By all means have a substantial business component on government bodies, but balance that with other stakeholders, not least trade unions, who will ask difficult questions, not to be obstructive, but to remind the others that business success is not just important for shareholders. Workers have a stake too.