Better Business Better Lives

This month Business New Zealand, in partnership with Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, is hosting conference called Changing Gear. Because that is what we have to do. The conference is sub-titled Delivering the Social Dividend – because growth isn’t an end in itself, and we need to remind the wider community, and Government, of that simple fundamental truth. Without better growth, we will become poor country – and poor country does not have high quality health, education, welfare or environmental statistics.
There are three things that we see as critical to improving growth in New Zealand. The first is getting the environment for business right. That is something that business organisations have focused on for the past two decades. The other two things are new areas of emphasis.
They are also related. We need to focus on improving the quality of New Zealand businesses, and we need to focus on improving the quality of our skills. critical part of improving business is improving our people’s skills and abilities. And that means everyone’s skills and abilities – managers, technical staff, support staff, sales people.
New Zealand management is unique mix – we do some things very well, and seem to be not so good at others.
On the positive, Harvard University research into why New Zealand won the America’s Cup in 1995 sums it up as “New Zealanders are an enterprising, resilient breed who don’t appear to accept that something cannot be done”.
On the other hand, the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness report for 2000 identified three areas in which New Zealand management was below par. These were:
* developing strategy;
* harnessing technology; and
* managing people and capital.
New Zealanders are good at producing ‘things’ – but bad at adding value to products. That requires both strategy and the effective management of the ‘human’ factor – the means by which opportunities for adding value are identified and implemented. Unfortunately we don’t seem to make this link – in the same global competitiveness report, we are rated 23rd in terms of “companies investing heavily to attract, develop, motivate and retain staff”.
Research by both Auckland and Massey Universities in the mid 1990s found New Zealand managers’ weaknesses included:
* interpersonal skills;
* overemphasis on traditional command and control techniques;
* reluctance to reflect on strategies and performance;
* tendency to bury themselves by being ‘hands on’ managers;
* the use of ‘large company’ techniques unsuited to New Zealand’s small enterprises.
This last problem is not helped by many of New Zealand’s tertiary education providers continuing to offer business programmes based around ‘large company’ notions of business. MBAs in particular tend to teach skills best suited for big companies, not small or medium sized enterprises of the kind we need to foster and grow in New Zealand if we are to improve our prosperity.
It is clear then that one of the key things our managers have to get better at is managing people – and making sure that the firm’s key resource – its people – continually increase in their value. In my experience, skill development doesn’t just improve productivity directly – it also motivates staff and creates opportunity for innovation and the application of new ideas and approaches.
Our overall skill development record is also mixed. In some ways we have made huge progress over the past two decades. For example we now have one of the highest participation rates in formal post-compulsory education in the OECD.

NZIM Auckland division has appointed Stig Ehnbom as its new general manager. He brings 15 years of experience working with Swedish multinational companies and 25 years as private consultant specialising in marketing, personal development, customer service and learning design.
Getting back to managerial basics such as looking after customers, creating value for stakeholders and motivating and mobilising employees to be their best is as important today as ever, says Ehnbom, who believes these attributes are vital part of the innovation built into the goods and services of today. The challenge for NZIM is living those values while continuing to add to and impact the store of knowledge that the institute has built up over the years.
“NZIM has the opportunity to be true knowledge organisation, fully customising every service delivery and illustrating how an organisation can add value in the new economy. If knowledge is the most valuable asset of the 21st century, and people are seen as revenue generators not costs, then there is clearly new model for managing people that is needed, model we at NZIM believe we are in clear position to deliver,” says Ehnbom.

Vacancies National Board

Nominations are required for two positions on the NZIM National Board.

The board comprises seven elected directors. Next year two directors will retire and one will be eligible for re-election.

Nominations close at 5pm on 31 December 2001.
Nomination forms are available from your nearest division or from national office.
David Chapman

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