Last Updated Nov 9, 2010 1:36 PM EST
They found three of them, and you can read about the entire research project on Sadun's blog post on HBR.org, called Management's Little Black Dress: Essential Practices for Leaders.
Here they are:
Rigorous monitoring. "Best practice firms are ruthless in monitoring their entire production process.... The basic message: information is king, and firms that collect, process, and exploit information are beating firms that do not."
Challenging targets. "Best practice firms set tough short-run and long-run targets for every stage of their process.... For example, in manufacturing many great firms had daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, and 5-yearly target. We find firms with broad and challenging targets are comprehensively outperforming their competitors."
Rewards and incentives. "The best firms acknowledge and reward their top performers with a range of bonuses and promotion.... This motivates employees to outperform, driving firms with strong rewards and to overtake their weaker competitors."
What I like about these findings is that they are entirely achievable by most companies. What it takes to have successful management is basic blocking and tackling, not motivational speeches by a charismatic CEO, a billion-dollar budget or a nation of Twitter followers.
Would you add anything to this research team's list of essential business management practices?