Spare us this permanent revolution

Nov 19 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Most British managers, faced with implementing yet another pet project or initiative delivered from on high, will loyally get on with the job yet believe, deep down, that it is complete nonsense and a waste of time.

A survey by "virtual" business school Pentacle has identified deep-seated scepticism among UK managers about the constant stream of projects, ideas and initiatives coming down from their senior executives.

More than eight out of 10 managers surveyed believed that too many projects failed to result in anything that improved the profitability of their business.

And more than three quarters of senior managers underestimated the stress of repeated initiatives or how much such a regime of "permanent revolution" could unnerve their staff.

Yet more than half of the managers also believed projects failed because of poor execution rather than in their conception.

And, contradictorily, three quarters felt the initiatives carried out in their own company would prove beneficial.

Similarly, most said they would be happy to implement changes when it was clear they had been thought out and managed properly.

Two thirds of those polled also believed that project failure was typically the fault of senior management, and commitment at the highest level was seen as more important than getting all staff "on board".

Notably, senior management and above were hardest on their own kind, with seven out of 10 typically blaming strategic project failure on senior management.

The most common reason for failure was poor communication, which was ranked highest with 73% seeing it as a regular cause of failure.

Professor Eddie Obeng, director of Pentacle, said: "Senior management clearly take responsibility for the endeavours they attempt to implement and there is a widespread recognition that they are often to blame when projects go awry.

"Our survey revealed that people are aware that communication of strategy is of the highest importance and senior management still need to step up to the challenge of being able to effectively disseminate the relevant parts of a strategy in the wider organisation, in order to be able to deliver the projects they design," he added.

A third of those polled felt men were better at visualising a strategy and a third were convinced that women were better at delivering one.

This gender divide was most strongly voiced by the women polled, with more than four out of 10 believing they were naturally more disposed to delivering projects.

"It is interesting that a significant proportion of people still see gender gaps in people's approach to strategy," said Obeng.

"Many still see men as the thinkers and women as the doers. Whether one takes this view or not, the key to delivering strategy is to assemble a balanced team and ensure that both conception and implementation are given the necessary resource," he added.