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Management Tools & Trends 2017/18

Management Tools & Trends 2017/18

Five important trends emerge from this year's Management Tools & Trends survey.

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Management Tools & Trends 2017/18

Technology breakthroughs continue to reshuffle industries and shift competition, changing the ways we work, manage and organize. The persistence and power of this ongoing digital transformation is evident in the results of our most recent Management Tools & Trends survey, as managers embrace digital tools like Advanced Analytics and the Internet of Things. Just as striking, digital natives and established technology companies are turning novel management and organizational concepts into operational realities as they move away from hierarchical structures and embrace Agile Management, accelerating innovation and pushing power and responsibility to the front line.

The broad move to empower teams is happening across industries, from small regional firms to major multinationals, and in both emerging and developed markets. Of the 1,268 managers who participated in Bain & Company’s latest Management Tools & Trends survey, conducted in the fall of 2017, 4 out of 5 agreed with the idea that today’s business leaders must trust and empower people, not command and control them. Only 5% disagreed.

Bain has surveyed executive behavior and attitudes 16 times over the past 25 years, each survey a snapshot of a moment in history. Combined, they span a full range of economic cycles, becoming something more like a motion picture, elucidating long-term shifts and exposing momentary fads. Business cycles and changing theories of management affect the popularity of individual tools and trends. So do more specific factors, such as how well an individual tool works.

Topping the list of the 25 most popular management tools (see Figure 3) is Strategic Planning, the process of determining what a business should become and how it can best achieve that goal. Perennially among the top 10, this time Strategic Planning ranks No. 1 based on global usage — a reflection, at least in part, of the challenges and opportunities raised by digital technologies. As companies navigate this so-called fourth industrial revolution, hoping to grow and thrive in a quickly changing environment, understanding how to be of value to customers only becomes more vital. It’s little surprise, then, that Customer Relationship Management, which focuses on understanding customers and responding quickly to their shifting desires, ranks No. 2 on the list, close behind Strategic Planning.


Since 1993, Bain & Company has surveyed executives around the world about the management tools they use and how effectively those tools have performed. The objective: to provide managers with information they need to identify and integrate tools that will improve bottom-line results, and to understand how global executives view their strategic challenges and priorities.

We focus on 25 tools, honing the list each year. To be included in our survey, a tool needs to be relevant to senior management, topical and measurable. By tracking the tools companies are using, under what circumstances and how satisfied managers are with the results, we have helped them make better choices in selecting, implementing and integrating the tools to improve their performance.

With this, our 16th survey, we now have more than 14,700 respondents from more than 70 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, and we can systematically trace the effectiveness of management tools over the years. As part of our survey, we also ask executives for their opinions on a range of important business issues. As a result, we are able to track and report on changing management priorities.

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