We are often asked to explain the difference between MSAT (MSAT – Managerial Self-Assessment Tool is the 360 degree feedback component of our survey software, Survey Tools for Windows) and a Managerial Practices Survey. Both involve the assessment of managers by peers, subordinates and the manager’s self-assessment. Both use the same type of questions and the goal of both is to discover ways in which managers can modify their behaviors and become more effective. However, there are key differences. This article should help you decide which is right for your situation.

MSAT is a self-help tool for managers who want insight into how they are perceived by others so that they can improve. The use of MSAT is voluntary. You can’t force your managers to use it, although you can certainly market it and encourage its use. With MSAT each manager creates an individual, custom survey, concentrating on the areas which are most important to the manager. Part of the survey may include core questions suggested by the HR department for all managers but most are chosen by the manager. Many of the questions are often more personal in nature than ones on a Managerial Practices Survey (e.g. questions relating to appearance).

In the case of MSAT, only the manager sees the results of the survey (and in some cases, a coach in the HR department, but no else). This fact tends to encourage respondents to be more honest and frank than they would be if they knew that the manager’s boss would see the results. Even when respondents have problems with a manager, they usually do not want to contribute to the manager getting fired.

Armed with the insights from MSAT managers can make changes and improve their effectiveness, especially if the process is repeated at regular intervals.

As opposed to MSAT, the Managerial Practices Survey is a fixed survey instrument that is given to all employees. If Survey Tools for Windows is used with the MSAT database of questions, it is easy to create this survey. With the open-ended demographic question feature of Survey Tools for Windows, the results for hundreds of individual managers can be obtained. With one more demographic question, it is possible to further breakdown the results by subordinate, peer, boss, customer, self-assessment or whatever type of rater you wish to have assess the manager. In addition, data can also be compiled by location or division.

Unlike MSAT, the results from the Managerial Practices Survey are seen by top management and participation is not voluntary. Further, comparisons can be made between managers and between a manager and the organization averages.

Obviously, the Managerial Practices Survey is a far more threatening tool than MSAT. However, if top management promises not to use the results to penalize managers but only to provide managers with insight, the threat will be lessened.

So which do we recommend? In fact both are excellent tools and many organizations use both. The Managerial Practices Survey gives top management the overall picture and highlights trouble spots. MSAT allows individual managers to get more personal feedback which helps them manage better and produce more positive ratings on the annual Managerial Practices Survey.

The following is a quick summary of the key benefits of each tool:

Managerial Self-Assessment Tool (MSAT)

    • Survey measures what is most important to the individual manager.
    • Feedback is more honest.
    • More personal questions can be asked.
    • Managers have ownership and are more likely to act on findings.

Managerial Practices Survey


  • Not voluntary so all managers will be assessed.
  • Standard survey so comparisons can be made. Allows identification of problem areas so that training or other actions can be targeted where they will do the most good.
  • Regardless of which model you choose, or if you use both, the easiest and most cost effective way to do your 360 degree feedback surveys is with Survey Tools for Windows