The remaining chapters are largely concerned with corporate culture. The authors explore the shapes of organisations and the hidden messages that these convey, "rites of passage", "how to manage your career in the context of the culture" and the like. The chapter on "Corporate horses for career courses" distinguishes between power-based, role-based, task-based and democracy-based cultures, and considers what each of them demands. A smart move obviously requires a good match between these corporate cultures and one's own personal culture or predispositions. This is followed by advice on how to identify these by inanimate indicators.
Hard on the heels of these indicators are those which reflect more directly the "people" part of the culture, which the authors describe as the "rites of passage". What kind of background do the corporate decision makers have? Do they come from a particular dominant function? Do they tend to promote from inside or outside? What is the corporate age? What are the identifying characteristics of the human resource policies of the organisation? And so on. The more accurate the information you glean about any organisation that you are thinking of joining, the better.
Two more chapters explore the "Paths up the pyramid" and the "Peaks and slippery slopes". They cover what to look for in a "good boss", being visible, working abroad and "knowing when to move on". The final chapter examines "Smart moves for the 21st century", and considers the demographic effect, the ascendancy of experts, and careers in the third age.
We are certainly entering a new era of self-development and personal responsibility in what is increasingly a corporate jungle. This book makes a substantial contribution to the literature by recognising this reality, and by helping executives to understand the obstacles that they must overcome.
The authors are extremely sound on corporate culture, and offer wise advice on how managers might plan their own career development in the future. The challenge confronting managers was admirably summed up by George Bernard Shaw in "Mrs Warren's Profession" when he wrote: "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."
(Cary L Cooper is Professor of Organisational Psychology in the Manchester School of Management at UMIST, the University of Manchester Institute of Technology.)