Global Execs Leaning More on 'Soft Tools' for Management

March 28, 2007 ( - The path to corporate success is changing to include an increased emphasis on "soft management tools" such as corporate culture, environmental protection and knowledge management, according to a new Bain & Company survey.

A Bain news release about its Management Tools & Trends 2007 survey of more than 1,200 international executives said nine of 10 believe that corporate culture is as important as strategy for business success.

Meanwhile, seven of 10 consider environmentally-friendly products and practices an important part of their mission – a focus that is particularly true for executives in emerging markets (77%) than for their counterparts in established market (59%). For the first time since Bain has done the survey, the announcement said knowledge management ranks among the top-10 most used tools.

“Executives are actively addressing higher order needs, changing the rules and the tools of management,” said Darrell Rigby, senior Bain & Company partner and author of the Management Tools & Trends study, in the news release. “Organizational culture and so-called softer issues are now top of mind. Executives are clearly looking beyond cost-cutting for success.”

The top-10 most used tools mentioned by respondents include:

  • strategic planning,
  • customer relationship management,
  • customer segmentation,
  • benchmarking,
  • core competencies,
  • mission & vision statements (tied for 5th),
  • outsourcing (7th) ; and
  • business process reengineering, knowledge management, and scenario & contingency planning (tied for 8th).

Other 2007 survey results include:

  • Executives in emerging markets tend to use the following management tools more often than their counterparts in established markets: total quality management, supply chain management, six sigma, corporate blogs, shared service centers and consumer ethnography. Executives in established markets are more apt to use mergers and acquisitions, offshoring, benchmarking, scenario and contingency planning and strategic alliances.
  • 43% agree and 25% disagree that their companies would have better long-term results if privately owned; 39% would rather work for a privately owned company, while 27% would not.
  • 87% agree that information technology can create significant advantages. At the same time one-third of the executives also believe that expected paybacks from IT investments are rarely achieved.