British public companies appear to be suffering from schizophrenia. The is especially worrying at a time when business has won the right to set economic and social agendas worldwide, as Simon Caulkin and Michael Black point out in The New Corporate Crusade (p56).
One side of the corporate personality has a clear mission: efficiency and effectiveness must be pursued relentlessly so that the company can survive and grow in the increasingly competitive market place. The organisation must continue to be delayered and downsized. Non-core functions must be contracted out. (In a recent survey conducted by Manpower and the Institute of Management, six in 10 employers predicted that at least a quarter of their employees will be "complementary" to the core workforce in four years' time). Returns on capital must be maximised.
The other side of the corporate personality embraces the concept of stakeholders. Employees must be nurtured. Obligations to, inter alia, the local community, company pensioners and the environment must rank alongside the interests of the shareholders.
Unifying these two strands is difficult. Their disparity is confusing to shareholders and employees alike; it provides a charter for weak, unfocused management. Company leaders must therefore be clear in their own minds about their priorities, and this philosophy must be set out honestly. Shareholders and employees, customers and suppliers, can then understand and make choices about their relationship with individual companies.
A new look but the aim is the same
The resdesign evident in this month's Management Today comes at a time when the economic recovery is no longer patchy and UK companies are regaining confidence. It is also encouraging that, as the rate of change in many aspects of business and management continues to accelerate, more UK managers now recognise that nobody can afford to be a passive observer and that change must be viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat.
A critical ingredient which enables good managers to capitalise on change is the ability to understand what is going on beyond their immediate sphere of operation. During the 28 years that Management today has been writing for and about management, it has consistently sought to broaden the understanding and vision of Britain's managers. This is achieved by looking critically at individual managers and their businesses to enable our 250,000 readers to consider practices different from their own; by examining current management thinking and techniques; by addressing salient issues and trends; and by contemplating the vicissitudes of working life. We look forward to continuing to provide this support to those men and women who have the courage, vision and commitment to drive their enterprises forward.