The Wealth Creators.
By Andrew Kakabadse
Kogan Page; 229pp; £18.95.
Review by Anne Ferguson.
Light-years ago - or so it seems - I tried to explain to an incoming boss about the culture of the company for which I then worked. He had been wooed by the directors from a fast track job in New York and was full of exciting ideas for out business. I suggested, in what I hoped was an enthusiastic but worldly-wise fashion, that he would do well to get top management's agreement to his plans in writing. It was my perception that what the top team said, and what it did in practice, were all too often apt to diverge.
Naturally he didn't take much account of the views of a young squirt like me, and happily accepted the job without regard to this impertinent advice. After a relatively brief stay, during which he was unable to put many of his plans into action, he left.
In his latest book, Andrew Kakabadse deals with situations very like this. For The Wealth Creators penetrates deeply into one of the least known but most important regions of management, the muddy area of human relations at the top of organisations.
Professor Kakabadse opens by claiming that more then 60% of business organisations are badly managed at the top. Drawing on several years of detailed research - and with the benefit of a large survey - he reveals that more then half the chairmen and chief executives of British and Irish companies are far from convinced that their executive teams are as effective as they should be. The general managers who provide the interface between the top executives and the rest of the business are even less impressed. Nearly two-thirds of them believe there are serious problems in their top teams, which prevent their organisation from attaining its objectives.
Kakabadse concludes with the statement that organisations - and therefore the wealth-creation process itself- 'are as much driven, or inhibited, by personal views and emotions-as by market trends'. In between he undertakes a detailed and considered explanation of what this means, why it happens and how it can be changed.
The trouble with this book is not the argument but the presentation. I had an awful time simply reading it. Like so many of the hundreds of business books published in the UK each year, it has been badly edited, if at all. This is doubly unfortunate since Kakabadse says in his preface that the book is 'intentionally written in an easy-to-read, jargon-free style'.
He should have secured the cooperation of his editor before allowing himself to be lured into such a rash statement.
In truth The Wealth Creators is heavy going. It is turgid, repetitious and full of business school jargon. This will hardly commend it to its target audience of top executives and high fliers. Which is a shame, because what Kakabadse has to say is important and deserves to be noticed. Currently professor of management development at Cranfield, he is one of Britain's few internationally recognised management gurus (recognised, that is, by his European and American peers), and in great demand by several of our best known companies as a consultant. So it's a great pity that some of his most considered work should be strewn with so many literal errors, nonsensical mistakes, incomprehensible diagrams and tables, and horrible hyphenations.
The reader might do worse than simply pick out the pearls: the key business failure indicators, best practice summaries, lists of do's and don'ts, and some marvellous case studies. As it is, The Wealth Creators is all too likely to become one of the must reads' - in the sense of 'when I get time I must read this book'.
Perhaps the professor could be persuaded to have it thoroughly revised for the paperback version.
Recently a business writer with Independent on Sunday. Anne Ferguson is now an MBA student.