Over the past three decades, management tools have become a common part of executives' lives. Whether trying to boost revenues, innovate, improve quality, increase efficiencies or plan for the future, executives have looked for tools to help them. The current environment of globalization and economic turbulence has increased the challenges executives face and, therefore, the need to find the right tools to meet these challenges.
To do this successfully, executives must be more knowledgeable than ever as they sort through the options and select the right management tools for their companies. The selection process itself can be as complicated as the business issues they need to solve. They must choose the tools that will best help them make the business decisions that lead to enhanced processes, products and services—and result in superior performance and profits.
Successful use of such tools requires an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each tool as well as an ability to creatively integrate the right tools, in the right way, at the right time. The secret is not in discovering one magic device, but in learning which mechanism to use, and how and when to use it. In the absence of objective data, groundless hype makes choosing and using management tools a dangerous game of chance. To help inform managers about the tools available to them, in 1993
Bain & Company launched a multiyear research project to gather facts about the use and performance of management tools. Our objective was to provide managers with:
- An understanding of how their current application of these tools and subsequent results compare with those of other organizations across industries and around the globe;
- The information they need to identify, select, implement and integrate the optimal tools to improve their company's performance.
Every year or two since, we've conducted research to identify 25 of the most popular and pertinent management tools. In this guide, we've defined the tools and how they are used. We determine through our research the extent to which each tool is being deployed and its rate of success. We also conduct one-on-one follow-up interviews to learn the circumstances in which each tool is most likely to produce the desired results.
Over time, our research has provided a number of important insights. Among them:
- Overall satisfaction with tools is moderately positive, but the rates of usage, ease of implementation, effectiveness, strengths and weaknesses vary widely;
- Management tools are much more effective when they are part of a major organizational effort;
- Managers who switch from tool to tool undermine employees' confidence;
- Decision makers achieve better results by championing realistic strategies and viewing tools simply as a means to a strategic goal;
- No tool is a cure-all.
We also found other important trends from the 2009 survey:
- Nearly all executives believe innovation is vital to their company's success, but few feel they have learned to harness its power effectively;
- Many executives have serious concerns about how their organizations gather customer insights and manage decision making.
Our efforts to understand the continually evolving management tools landscape have led us to add four new tools to this year's guide: Change Management Programs, Enterprise Risk Management, Rapid Prototyping and Social Media Programs. Change Management Programs and Enterprise Risk Management are not new tools, but managers may find them more relevant in the current economic environment. Social Media has grown rapidly and we look forward to understanding how companies are using it, and whether they believe it is an effective business tool for improving results. We hope that you will find this reference guide a useful tool in itself.