Headlines: January 23rd, 2003

An overall lack of management skills in Britain is acting as a brake on the effectiveness of public sector reform according to a report out today from The Work Foundation.The document, ‘Can the UK learn to manage?’ – is the Foundation’s most recent contribution to the debate on British management and productivity. A report commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry on the performance of British managers – prepared by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School – is due to be published later this month.

Today’s report says the UK’s four million managers receive less training than their counterparts in the USA, Japan, Germany and France and have spent less time in education. UK employers also report that management abilities are one of the most problematic skills gaps. It predicts that managers will continue to under- perform unless they get more support.

According to the Foundation Britain’s managers are not just under qualified but are the least qualified of any comparable group and it says this is unacceptable “especially as managerial performance increasingly has a direct impact on our everyday lives. Consider for instance the effects of poor management of our railways, pension funds and hospitals,” the report says.

Andy Westwood, co-author of the report and head of public policy research at The Work Foundation says, “We have more managers than pretty much any comparative country but more does not mean better; in fact for the UK it means more under qualified, more under prepared managers for whatever the job in hand happens to be. We need to completely rethink how we prepare our managers and perhaps also we need to rethink how we all too often reach for management as the solution to all of our workplace problems.”