UK: BERTIE'S TALENTS GO BY THE BOARD.

UK: BERTIE'S TALENTS GO BY THE BOARD. - A chance reading of a leading management magazine gives Master Wooster the idea that he has much to contribute to British industry. David Morton listens in as he loses his illusions.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A chance reading of a leading management magazine gives Master Wooster the idea that he has much to contribute to British industry. David Morton listens in as he loses his illusions.

'Efficiency, Jeeves,' I said.

'Indeed, sir.' 'And cost-cutting,' I added for good measure.

'Very good, sir.' Now, it is not often that I find myself more clued in to the ways of the world than Jeeves. However, on the matter of dispensing with the breakfast cook and empowering Jeeves himself to tackle the egg and bacon I was able to pride myself on being well ahead of him in this round of the game of life.

A chance reading of a leading management magazine while awaiting the attention of the dentist's drill had given me the big picture in a way unavailable to those who have to get on unaided with the details of life's problems - even those of enormous brain power like Jeeves.

And though Jeeves is a man of fierce intellect I have noted that he sometimes lacks flexibility. In this case, far from being happy with the new, more efficient arrangements, Jeeves showed every sign of being disgruntled. So disgruntled, indeed, that no amount of encouragement on my part would gruntle him.

As a result, there was something of a battle of wills, with Jeeves pursuing a scorched-earth policy on the toast front while I retaliated to the effect that I was fully in the swim with modern labour practice. To prove my point I popped round to the Drones Club to see if anybody could point me in the direction of the world of work.

Well, it must be confessed that up to now I have rather let British industry get along without the Wooster contribution, and British industry hadn't pressed me for my services. However, Gussie Fink-Nottle, or perhaps it was Stiffy Byng, showed me an ad which gave the definite impression, reading between the lines, that what British industry was now looking for was someone to help with the browsing and sluicing that generally goes with a job on the board.

Wooster, I felt, was the man for this crucial role and I quickly signed up for a decent year's worth of lunches with various commercial enterprises. Not since the noble ancestor turned up for Agincourt with a handy supply of white flags has a Wooster gone so ill-prepared for the actual event.

Observation number one: the modern businessman eats and drinks on the quiet and keeps the big public occasion for the conspicuous consumption of mineral water. Observation number two: the general tone of a board meeting is that Judgement Day has set in with an unusual severity and that eternity is getting under way rather slowly. It turns out that there are only two types of board meeting: one where some top bod explains how the company is going to be restructured to focus on its own business; and the other where some top bod explains how the company is going to be restructured to focus on somebody else's business.

Of course, I did my bit on the efficiency and cost-saving front but I could see that this was old hat with these coves, who in truth would have outsourced their own mothers. After some months of being thus spurned in public and having to eat burned breakfasts in private I decided to be generous with Jeeves and suggest that he apply his mighty mind to the problems that faced me. 'Jeeves, have you ever pondered on management?' I asked.

'From time to time, sir, I used to - in the early morning,when the brain is at its sharpest.' 'In that case, Jeeves, you must immediately hire a breakfast cook so that the full razor-edge of the old brain cells can be addressed to the following problem, to wit what's a non-executive director supposed to bring to the part?' The next morning Jeeves shimmered in with toast of a perfect golden-brown hue and what even the Wooster can recognise as the pure light of intelligence beaming forth.

'Regarding your position on the Board, sir, may I surmise that you feel somewhat outflanked by the sheer number of professionals?' 'You mean all the plotters and the planners, Jeeves, the bean counters and the chaps that keep the serfs in line?' 'Sir may find it would help if he were to identify a common factor among the disparate foe.' 'You mean the eyes of the killer shark, Jeeves? Or the suspicion of the cloven hoof inside the Church's shoes?' 'Indeed, sir. The spirit of the shark is all too often necessary to the spirit of enterprise, and the cloven hoof, while not essential, is, as you say, all too prevalent. Sir will perform a useful service if he keeps an eye out for the emerging cloven hoof. A quiet word to the cloven hoofed is usually effective and often has its gastronomic rewards.

'I believe Mr Fink-Nottle, or it may have been Mr Byng, already dine out frequently by following the method. It came to my mind shortly after we lost our previous breakfast cook, sir, and my thoughts were much engaged by cost-cutting. Will that be all, sir?'.

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