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Fighting Talk

The following is an opinion on British management culture. “Short Sighted, Short-Termists, or Long-Term, Growth Visionaries”. If the first couple of words hadn’t given an indication that further language with a hint of ‘step into the executive car park and say that again, would you?’ might be about to follow, here are more words from the same source:


The prevailing managerial bias towards cost efficiency is seriously harmful to corporate performance.”

It’s the actual source that’s possibly surprising: step forward the Chartered Management Institute, who are currently working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management (APPG) to report on the state of British Management. If provocative thinking is to your taste, I’d suggest you download the three currently available PDF documents from the CMI website:

I was aware of the Parliamentary Commission from the ever-reliably informative Flip Chart Fairy Tales, where Rick (its writer) appears to be witnessing green shoots. Not so much in the economy – although he plainly recognises the need for them and no doubt has his fingers crossed – but in the weight, credence and percentage of ear-time that might be afforded to HR. (And yes, I nearly did type ‘going forward’ then.) Although he is a man often drawn to charts and graphs (in this case, the impact of healthcare productivity on public sector net debt), it was a paragraph of his piece People Management moves centre-stage that struck more of a chord with me:

The difference between annual productivity improvements of 2.2 percent (the OBR’s Central Projection) and 1 percent might not sound like much but, over time, the fiscal impact is huge. True, some of this is, as with most public services, is dependent on political decisions but much of it is a people management challenge.”

The Commission will undoubtedly have its work cut out. Even a fairly casual sortee across some of the more relevant corners of the Internet reveals a raft of topics that will no doubt head their way:

  • “Staff working in the frontlines of business have great faith in their workmates, with fewer than one in 10 saying they don’t trust their colleagues. But that level falls the higher up the management chain you go. While eight out 10 gave their backing to line managers, just three out of 10 believe in their top bosses when they look towards the executive suite. (Daily Telegraph, October 2013)
  • Ineffective management is estimated to be costing UK businesses over £19billion per year in lost working hours (BIS: Leadership & Management In The Uk – The Key To Sustainable Growth, July 2012) (PDF)
  • 43% of UK managers rate their own line manager as ineffective – and only one in five are qualified (ibid)
  • The survey found considerable levels of investment by organisations in MLD. The average spend per manager, per annum, is £1,414. High performing organisations invest 36 per cent more than low performing organisations (£1,738 compared to £1,275). […] Public sector organisations spend on average £1,515 per manager per year, while private sector organisations spend £1,416 and not-for-profit sector organisations spend £1,133. Public sector managers report receiving the most types of MLD in the last three years, with an average of 6.5. Not-for-profit sector managers received on average 5.9, while private sector managers received 5.8. (CMI: Business Benefits of Management and Leadership Development)

You can register at the CMI website to receive regular updates, and we’ll keep an eye on their progress. Like Rick, we welcome the rising prominence of CIPD in terms of media profile and in being called upon to comment on HR issues rather than, as he puts it, “Pandora Knownothing-Smythe from GodKnowsWhat organisation”.

The recent comment on management culture and its impact that caught our intention was, however, David Dimbleby in a Daily Telegraph interview:

The language of management speak has seeped into key bits of the BBC where it shouldn’t exist. And the whole language that John Birt introduced of commissioning processes and dividing up things that had been united took hold, and what got lost was some of the direct responsibility for things, which is why we had this catastrophe last year and earlier this year where the habit of leading had given way to constant buck-passing. People get promoted for speaking the language of outreach. Nobody seems to be able to do anything to turn people back into human beings who can talk directly to each other. They are compelled by organisational structures.”

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