Being a manager is certainly one of the most complex tasks there is: you have to steer the collective action of a group of interacting individuals within an organisation, which itself has to face up to a constantly changing business environment, one that is not always fully understood and often unpredictable.
It is therefore unsurprising that management causes a particularly high level of stress, and that managers are looking for any methods, tools or formulas to help them to do their job better. This in large part explains the success of management models.
This phenomenon is symptomatic of a highly-developed management tool industry.
Each era has had its preferred model, whether it is Strategic Planning, Design Thinking, Management by Objectives or the Lean Startup methodology. Every time, for a certain period, all the books on management refer to it, all consultants add it to their range of services, and all managers try to use it, until another, more promising tool replaces it.
This string of management methods can be essentially explained in two ways, one positive, the other less so:
- Looking at it positively, these tools work, but since they are used by all, they quickly lose their competitive advantage, which logically means they are soon abandoned in favour of the next big thing to come along.
- According to a more cynical interpretation, this phenomenon is symptomatic of a highly-developed management tool industry, where consultants and authors compete with each other to constantly renew and update their offers.
Three key characteristics shared by successful models
But have you ever asked yourself what makes a management model successful? To answer this question, we can look at two models that have remained well-known across many years: the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Matrix and Blue Ocean Strategy.
These two models have three characteristics in common:
- Firstly, these are tools that solve real problems. The BCG Matrix was designed to manage activity portfolios for diversified companies and the Blue Ocean Strategy aims to avoid head-on competition within an industry. Both tools were created to solve two actual business problems.
- Secondly, these tools challenge preconceived ideas. The BCG Matrix measures how much an activity costs through its growth rate, which is generally more associated with profit, while the Blue Ocean Strategy shows that a product or service offering can simultaneously increase, reduce, create and eliminate characteristics compared to the competition, which may seem contradictory at first glance. In both cases, the model goes beyond established evidence.
- Thirdly, these tools ensured their popularity through the use of image-based vocabulary – the famous cash cows, stars, question marks and dogs for the BCG Matrix, or the Ocean Blue Strategy’s nautical analogy. In both cases, the terminology used has greatly contributed to the method’s success.
So, if you wish to create a management model, you should make sure you respect these three conditions: offer a tool that addresses a real problem, breaks with taken-for-granted principles and uses a catchy image, acronym or terminology.
In short, your model should be useful, original and memorable. Of course, that does not guarantee its success, but at least it should help.
This was previously published in French by Xerfi Canal.
This post gives the views of its author, not the position of ESCP Business School.