The 90-Minute Manager; By David Bolchover and Chris Brady; Prentice Hall Business; pounds 12.99
Can corporate managers learn about management from football? Or is that just an excuse for going to matches? This book makes a convincing case that there are good lessons to be learned 'from the dugout'.
To some extent, this is indisputable: good team spirit will surely be useful in most businesses. As Bill Parcells, an NFL coach, has said: 'People are people, and the keys to motivating them and getting them to perform to their full potential are pretty much the same.'
But there are clear differences between managing football clubs and managing other organisations or companies: in particular, the football manager's relationships with the club board of directors, the chairman, the individual players, and - the most volatile group of customers in the business world - the fans.
The 90-Minute Manager argues, though, that the extent to which lessons can usefully be learned has increased dramatically with the development of the new economy. Much has been made of the 'talent war' in business, something that isn't new to the business of football.
Sport has long been accepted as a serious area for business analysis in the US. But it is only since Gazza burst into tears at the 1990 World Cup that football has been adopted by the chattering classes in Britain. As the authors point out: 'Even politicians no longer hide their allegiances, instead they boast about them. The prime minister even invents them. Sir Richard Greenbury refers to Alex Ferguson as the best man-manager in British industry, and the head of the German automotive industry has named Ottmar Hitzfeld (Bayern Munich) as the model for German business managers.'
The lessons go well beyond team-building and motivation, to include the management of stress, attention to detail, enthusiasm, dealing with mavericks, recruitment and, of course, luck.
How relevant the lessons are will vary. In most industries, managers are not required to lie so publicly. Take Sir Alex: 'We are looking at a few players, but in all honesty van Nistelrooy is not one of them' - a statement made 24 hours before signing him. Jim White once said that what he really liked about this was the phrase, 'in all honesty'.
But perhaps there are lessons even there. If you have to econo- mise with the truth, best make it convincing.