Robert Heller reviews the latest business books.
The Consulting Powerhouses and the Businesses
They Save and Ruin
by James O'Shea and Charles Madigan
Nicholas Brealey £18.00
What price consultancy? Brilliant reportage produces uncomfortable evidence that, for many clients, the price has been too high, the contribution too low. This unmissable book, cracking the code of a secretive profession, often reads like a whodunit. AT&T (half a billion spent on the road to nowhere) is the biggest victim, but other examples abound. O'Shea and Madigan pinpoint a credible villain: the economics of consulting, which push up costs more than value as top consultants pursue their personal seven-figure rewards. The authors demonstrate that these very clever guys are capable of brilliant contributions - if you dodge the mantraps. They show how, though their main lesson is an old paradox: the best managers, like Art Martinez of Sears Roebuck, make the best consultancy customers.
The Hungry Spirit
Beyond Capitalism - A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World
by Charles Handy
Charles Handy's worldwide army of followers will find this another telling exposition. His business-school credentials still resonate in telling precepts and case histories. But this book really aims to make managers (and everybody else) think about wider issues than business. They range from the unanswerable: 'What, ultimately, is the real purpose of life?', to the unarguable: capitalist markets, for all their stupendous achievements, are not enough, either for individuals or collectives. Handy spells out intelligent policies that put flesh on philosophical bones like 'Capitalism needs to be reinterpreted to make it decent ... Education should be redesigned', etc. Mildly messianic.
Why Change Doesn't Work
Why Initiatives Go Wrong and How to Try Again - and Succeed Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley
Orion Business Books. £18.99
The authors wrote the prize-winning Why Teams Don't Work; hence, no doubt, their new title. It misleads. Teams is a sound, logical guide to better teamworking. Change has no similar pattern to follow. Thus, pop psychology sits cheek-by-jowl with potted descriptions of change fashions such as empowerment, customer satisfaction, TQM, re-engineering - and teams. Usable information and advice do emerge as the book explores four management strategies: 'pummel, push, pull, pamper'. But you'll find no clear route to today's need: the change that changes almost everything - and for the better.
Twickers on the corporate bill Favourite activities and events for
Top 10 activities % of companies % with linked
1 Rugby union 55 22
2= Football 47 19
2= Golf 47 14
4 Opera, music, theatre 43 28
5 Horse racing 42 15
6 Cricket 37 7
7 Tennis 30 5
8 Motor sport 18 11
9 Rowing/sailing 14 5
10 Rugby league 12 7
Top five events % of companies
1. Five Nations Rugby 34
2. British Open 23
3. Test matches 22
4. Wimbledon 20
5= Premier League matches 18
5= Theatre 18
Source: Total Research. Figures for 1996.
It may be an indication of the continuing male dominance of business that rugby union emerges as a clear favourite for corporate entertaining, both as an activity and, with the Five Nations, as a single event. Interesting, likewise is that the arts are more sponsored than attended, showing perhaps that while the great and good of business like to be seen to be supporting the opera, they'd much rather be watching rugger.
Who flies the friendliest skies?
The ten most popular airlines for business and economy fliers
Business Class Economy Class
1. Virgin Atlantic 1. Virgin Atlantic
2. British Airways 2. Emirates
3. Singapore Airlines 3. British Airways
4. Emirates 4. Swissair
5. Cathay Pacific 5. Singapore Airlines
6. KLM 6. Air UK
7. Swissair 7. SAS
8. Thai International 8. Air New Zealand
9. Continental 9. British Midland
10. Air Canada 10. Thai International
Source: Business Traveller Magazine.
Since his airline's launch in 1984, Mr Branson has gone from strength to strength (excluding the odd unfortunate incident with hot air balloons, of which the less said, the better) and Virgin Atlantic now proudly enjoys the number-one position among both business and economy fliers in Business Traveller magazine's annual poll. Also noteworthy is that four of the top five airlines are the same in both categories: clearly companies which provide a good service are able to provide it whatever end of the market they're aiming at.