"Soft" Management Skills Acheive "Hard" Results

The Bain Consulting Management Tools Survey 2007 results have been published, and the results highlight the increasing importance of “soft” management skills in areas such as organisational culture, knowledge management, and innovation.

Innovation is a continuing top priority

Organisations are continuing to place emphasis on growth through innovation rather than relying on cost cutting to improve profits

  • 8 out of 10 respondents felt that “innovation is more important than cost reduction for long term success.”

Culture is as important as strategy for business success

While tools such as Balanced Scorecard remained important for converting strategy to implementation and monitoring results, the report highlighted that

  • 9 out of 10 executives agreed that “culture is as important as strategy for business success.”

However, Bain research indicates that fewer than 10% of organisations succeed in building a high performance culture.

Strategic Planning and Customer Relationship Management retained the highest adoption rates (88% and 84% respectively).

The paradox of Knowledge Management

The “softer” tools of Knowledge Management and Scenario and Contingency Planning moved from tied at 15th place to tied at 8th place, for a 3-way tie with Business Process Reengineering (all at 69% adoption)

Interestingly, while Knowledge Management ascended from 15th place to 8th place, satisfaction rates for Knowledge Management were lower than for many other tools. This perhaps suggests that Knowledge Management is a complex set of initiatives with goals that are not always clearly spelt out and measurable in tangible terms, or that while KM is considered important, organisations have not yet consistently identified and implemented approaches that enable them to achieve their Knowledge Management goals.

New tools

The 2007 survey saw the addition of new tools to the mix such as Corporate Blogs and Consumer Ethnography. However, many important or emerging tools growing in importance are not explicitly covered by the survey, such as Change Management, Organisational Culture Development, or Social Network Analysis. Clearly, the survey questions cover aspects of executive attitudes to organisational culture, but the published survey results are at too high a level to ascertain client satisfaction with, for example, specific Change Management or Organisational Culture techniques or approaches.

Key outcomes

Executives are recognising that “softer” tools and techniques such as

  • Innovation
  • Knowledge Management
  • Organisational Culture
  • Scenario Planning

in addition to more focused tools such as

  • Strategy
  • Balanced Scorecard

are vital to ongoing organisational success and performance.

Organisations need to gain organisational development capabilities – culture is as important as strategy, and intangibles such as knowledge and creativity matter. But to achieve these results, the right strategy needs to be applied effectively, with the key risk points identified and addressed along the lines discussed in my article on the 4 risk points for an innovation initiative.

One Response to "Soft" Management Skills Acheive "Hard" Results
  1. James Todhunter
    April 5, 2007 | 1:58 AM

    The dissatisfaction with knowledge management initiatives should come as no surprise. Most of these initiatives rely on conventional search technology which offers a failed metaphor for serious targeted research and innovation initiatives. Enterprises need to realign their KM strategies to transform their passive information archives in to active repositories that deliver the right content to information workers in the context of use.

"Soft" Management Skills Acheive "Hard" Results

The Bain Consulting Management Tools Survey 2007 results have been published, and the results highlight the increasing importance of “soft” management skills in areas such as organisational culture, knowledge management, and innovation.

Innovation is a continuing top priority

Organisations are continuing to place emphasis on growth through innovation rather than relying on cost cutting to improve profits

  • 8 out of 10 respondents felt that “innovation is more important than cost reduction for long term success.”

Culture is as important as strategy for business success

While tools such as Balanced Scorecard remained important for converting strategy to implementation and monitoring results, the report highlighted that

  • 9 out of 10 executives agreed that “culture is as important as strategy for business success.”

However, Bain research indicates that fewer than 10% of organisations succeed in building a high performance culture.

Strategic Planning and Customer Relationship Management retained the highest adoption rates (88% and 84% respectively).

The paradox of Knowledge Management

The “softer” tools of Knowledge Management and Scenario and Contingency Planning moved from tied at 15th place to tied at 8th place, for a 3-way tie with Business Process Reengineering (all at 69% adoption)

Interestingly, while Knowledge Management ascended from 15th place to 8th place, satisfaction rates for Knowledge Management were lower than for many other tools. This perhaps suggests that Knowledge Management is a complex set of initiatives with goals that are not always clearly spelt out and measurable in tangible terms, or that while KM is considered important, organisations have not yet consistently identified and implemented approaches that enable them to achieve their Knowledge Management goals.

New tools

The 2007 survey saw the addition of new tools to the mix such as Corporate Blogs and Consumer Ethnography. However, many important or emerging tools growing in importance are not explicitly covered by the survey, such as Change Management, Organisational Culture Development, or Social Network Analysis. Clearly, the survey questions cover aspects of executive attitudes to organisational culture, but the published survey results are at too high a level to ascertain client satisfaction with, for example, specific Change Management or Organisational Culture techniques or approaches.

Key outcomes

Executives are recognising that “softer” tools and techniques such as

  • Innovation
  • Knowledge Management
  • Organisational Culture
  • Scenario Planning

in addition to more focused tools such as

  • Strategy
  • Balanced Scorecard

are vital to ongoing organisational success and performance.

Organisations need to gain organisational development capabilities – culture is as important as strategy, and intangibles such as knowledge and creativity matter. But to achieve these results, the right strategy needs to be applied effectively, with the key risk points identified and addressed along the lines discussed in my article on the 4 risk points for an innovation initiative.

One Response to "Soft" Management Skills Acheive "Hard" Results
  1. James Todhunter
    April 5, 2007 | 1:58 AM

    The dissatisfaction with knowledge management initiatives should come as no surprise. Most of these initiatives rely on conventional search technology which offers a failed metaphor for serious targeted research and innovation initiatives. Enterprises need to realign their KM strategies to transform their passive information archives in to active repositories that deliver the right content to information workers in the context of use.