UK: Skills for every season - BRITISH INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT SATISFIED WITH ACHIEVEMENTS. - Peter Benlon, director general of the BIM, looks back over the past five years and feels that the institute can be satisfied with the role it has played in trans

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Peter Benlon, director general of the BIM, looks back over the past five years and feels that the institute can be satisfied with the role it has played in transforming UK management.

As revolution rolls round Europe, British managers face their own transformation. The force for change is similar: planned economies give way to market realities and command and control hierarchies break up under the new pressures. For more than a decade Britain has seen monopolies and cartels systematically dismantled. British managers in every aspect of the economy have had to face up to the new environment, ahead of the world. As Bob Horton put it, 'They must learn how to manage surprise.' The Flat Organisation arrives.

It is not that the old style of management with its clockwork of specialists was necessarily unsound for its own time. In the managed economy such structures are necessary. But when markets are in turmoil those hierarchies have proved arthritic and unresponsive. As we face turbulence in so many aspects of our economic life, a new way of managing has to be found. BIM calls it 'The New Management philosophy'.

Nearly five years ago, when the Constable and Handy reports on management education were published, the figures were there to prove just how amateur and how introverted British management was in comparison to Europe, Japan, and the US. Those facts, and the pressures of competition, shaped BIM's strategy. Working with the National Forum for Management Education, which it helped to found and support, the institute adopted three principles in setting out the way forward for management education in Britain.

Education should be available in modules, each carrying separate credits. There should be a ladder to qualifications, leading from a Certificate to a Diploma, and then on to an MBA; and management education should be concerned with practical competence in modern organisations. The busy manager in mid-career is the target, and the aim is to build the broader vision and powers of integration that the modern manager needs. For general management, long seen as appropriate only for the very senior, is now an art that everyone needs. So that has been the central objective of BIM strategy: to became the professional institute for general management, for managers who look outwards, adding value as others judge it.

BIM was the first patient in line to take its own medicine. Re-born out of its own traumatic troubles in the mid 1980s, the institute has proved the value of its own precepts. As it rides out the recession with scarcely a tremor to its planned cash flow, the benefits of sparse overheads and networked special skills prove themselves.

With its slender permanent staff, the institute depends on the efforts of several thousand who give their time voluntarily in busy careers.

Several hundred leaders in industry, commerce, academia, and the public service join in our programme of top management symposia. Almost every week groups of senior men and women discuss with BlM crucial issues affecting the quality of leadership in Britain and in the global market place. Opportunities exist to test new ideas, and for old attitudes to change when challenged by peers.

Over five years, the new management philosophy has been hammered into shape by those best able to judge what is needed and what will work.

Then there are the national committees and an extraordinary network of branches: more than a hundred groupings of managers at all levels, all over the country.

More formally, the institute has developed over the years a broad programme of courses for managers at different stages of their careers. The Certificate and the Diploma have now been launched. and working with British universities and business schools, BIM is putting into effect the principles adopted four years ago: modules with separate credits and the ladder leading eventually to the MBA.

As the revolution sweeps through Britain's organisations, people and their relationships grow in importance. As the tidy organisation chart and the manual of procedures are filed away, relationships within the business and outside, are no longer regulated as they used to be. In the flat network organisation, the relationship of the individual to the team and to the enterprise depend upon spontaneous motives. When every individual is free to act, the skills of management will be ineffective without the arts of leadership. Leadership is based on personal relationships and a sense of mutual responsibility; on arts of the impresario to create vision and inspire enthusiasm, and on getting one's priorities right - look after your team before you indulge yourself.

BIM enters the new decade with encouraging prospects. Strong in its balance sheet, and in its organisation, it has developed a system of ideas about management and leadership in civilian life that seem appropriate to a demanding age. New opportunities lie ahead for spreading its influence into Europe. There is a wider experience now of the turbulence that has formed our own philosophy. As these ideas gain support, British managers will be the welcome professionals everywhere, with skills for every season. If our top managers can match that quality, Britain, too, will prosper.

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