Mention juggling to a businessman - particularly one who's also an accountant - and he will very likely straighten his tie and begin stammering out an explanation. Yet increasing numbers of businessmen are learning that juggling is not necessarily anything to do with last month's figures: it can also refer to the innocent pastime of keeping little balls in the air. For, improbable as it may sound, keeping little balls in the air is one of the latest aids in the gymnasium of management training.
One prominent exponent of juggling (in the latter sense) is the American computer giant, Digital Equipment. 'Juggling', claims the company's manual earnestly, 'is like running a business - responding to internal and external fluctuations, continually attempting to stabilise chaos.' Others that have embraced this philosophy include Lloyds Bank, Reuters, BP and Sundridge Park Management Centre. At Lloyds managers-in-training have had to master the three-ball cascade. The aim, according to course director Deborah Vitai, was to make them appreciate that, with perseverence, 'they could do something they previously thought they could not do'. Sundridge Park claims that its 'thud' courses (the technical term for a juggling ball) offer 'a means of individual stress relief - as well as demonstrating a metaphor for keeping the job going'.
So who is behind this craze? One culprit, surely, is the brazenly-titled More Balls Than Most - founded by Adam Gardner and Charlie Fairbairn - a south London firm which not only teaches people how to juggle but also makes and sells the balls. Indeed, it recently won an export award for doing so. Anyone who questions the relevance of juggling to management training might like to take the matter up with another director, Max Oddball.