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Articles and Interviews

The Role of the Manager

by by Editors of DBM 2002

from Dutch Business Magazine, 2002

Could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?

I have been a consultant to professional firms around the world for 20 years. Before that, I was a professor at Harvard Business School. All of my books on professional businesses have been translated into Dutch. In a recent book (Business Minds by Tom Brown) I was identified as one of the top 40 business thinkers in the world.

Your basic assumption in Practice What You Preach is that certain elements have a direct influence on the profits of companies, because top companies have a better score on certain questions. How do you know that these factors influence their profits? Could other factors be influencing the company’s results? When questioning these firms, might you find that they also score differently on other topics on your list?

I did not assume anything. I studied 139 businesses in 15 countries, then used traditional statistical approaches to test exactly this question. The odds that the relationships I found are coincidental (i.e., actually driven by something else) are less than one in a thousand. If I only had 13 businesses, chance and coincidence might be factors, but with 139 data points it is very unlikely.

I’m interested in how you measure managers. Which criteria are most appropriate to use when measuring the effectiveness of a manager (not particularly top management but just individual managers)?

The job of a manager is to make other people in his or her group successful— sometimes in spite of themselves! The manger’s job is to be a creator of energy, excitement and enthusiasm so that people in the group accomplish more than they would without the manager.

There are two ways to judge a manager’s effectiveness. First, you can look at the group’s performance: profits, growth, client satisfaction and people development. Second, you can and should ask the people within the group to evaluate whether the manager is adding any value. Here is a questionnaire from my latest book (First Among Equals, to be published in May 2002) that can be used to evaluate the manager:

The manager