Over the past few decades, management tools have become a common part of executives’ lives. Whether they are trying to boost revenues, innovate, improve quality, increase efficiencies or plan for the future, executives have searched for tools to help them. The current environment of globalization, rapid technological advances and economic turbulence has increased the challenges executives face and, therefore, the need to find the right tools to meet those 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 deliver superior performance and profits.
Successful use of such tools requires an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each, 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 simple solution, but in learning which mechanisms to use, and how and when to use them. 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, Bain & Company launched a multiyear research project in 1993 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 1993, we have 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 have determined through our research the extent to which each tool is being deployed and its rate of success. We have also conducted 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 organization effort
- Managers who bounce randomly from tool to tool undermine employees’ confidence
- Hyperbole surrounding the trendiest of tools often leads to unrealistic expectations and disappointing results
- 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 two other important trends from our 2011 survey:
- Companies are focused on growth. About 65% of executives said their companies planned to focus more on growth initiatives than cost cutting—the highest percentage since we started asking the question 10 years earlier.
- Innovation continues to be a priority for executives, with 80% agreeing that innovation is more important than cost reduction for long-term success.
Detailed results from the Management Tools & Trends 2013 survey are available at www.bain.com/tools.Download PDF