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  According to a new study released this week by Bain & Company companies are increasingly leaning on more and better methods of assessing economic uncertainty to reach elusive growth targets.
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There has been a dramatic increase in the number and types of analytical methods that companies are applying to squeeze profits and productivity during the current downturn — a jump of nearly 60 percent over the past two years.

In addition, the survey results suggested that attitudes and tool usage varied by region, which paints a striking difference in the ways managers approach dealing with economic uncertainty. For instance, Asian managers embrace the broadest use of management techniques and placed greater emphasis on customer-focused tools, such as CRM and Customer Segmentation. In contrast, European managers seemingly place a greater premium on Knowledge Management and Change Management. North American managers focus largely on cost cutting versus revenue growth, using such methods as Downsizing, Outsourcing, Reengineering and Stock Buybacks.

“Management is under attack in this highly volatile environment and companies are turning to management tools in increasing numbers,” says Darrell Rigby, director of Bain & Company and founder of the Management Tools & Trends survey. “Most notably, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Contingency Planning and Knowledge Management rose through the ranks, both in usage and satisfaction.”

This year's study compared results with those compiled in 2000. It found that the most widely used tools in 2002 remained the same: Strategic Planning, Benchmarking and Mission and Vision Statements. Each of these three management tools were used by over 80 percent of survey participants. And in lean times, tools that require large cash outlays were used least: Stock Buybacks (falling far out of favor), Corporate Venturing and Merger Integration Teams.

Companies were most satisfied with tools that provide focus, both internally and externally, such as a Corporate Code of Ethics, Strategic Planning and Core Competencies.

The survey results suggest that managers are taking actions to achieve four things: Preserve customer revenues, prepare the hard road to growth, prepare for unexpected contingencies and focus on ethics.
 
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