The good business book guide
Robert Heller reviews the latest business books
Cybercorp: The New Business Revolution
by James Martin. Amacom £19.99
'The term virtual means that something appears to exist... when in actuality it does not'. The title of this book similarly suggests great technological revelations about cyberspace and its impact on business management. In actuality, James Martin tours all non-cyberspace, state-of-the-art transformations in business, from the virtual company to agile manufacturing, in a compelling exposition. Most could happen (and many have) without the internet. But the IT revolution has vastly enhanced management's ability to deploy new, accelerated processes. Companies that first and most avidly embrace the new technologies of management and information are putting irresistible pressure on the laggards. The pace-makers 'think of business opportunities in terms of cyberspace, radically changed marketing, value streams reinvented for real-time interaction, agile intercorporate relationships and new employee teams'. The choice is stark. Think - and act - likewise or die.
What Customers Like About You: Adding Emotional Value for Service Excellence and Competitive Advantage
by David Freemantle. Nicholas Brealey £16.99
'The internet goes beyond the boundaries of traditional customer-supplier interfaces and creates a world of opportunities for establishing new relationships and enhancing existing ones.' Perfectly true. But David Freemantle doesn't follow up this hi-tech promise. His vital message is low-tech. The holy grail of perfect customer relations will only be approached by companies that like/love their employees, like/love the customers and therefore like/love the products and services and the company. Freemantle is full of valuable if repetitive advice on how to practise this preaching. En route, he demolishes several myths ('most measures of customer satisfaction are meaningless') and supplies a brilliant chapter on recruitment that alone makes his book a must.
The Ten Keys to Successful Change Management
by John Pendlebury, Benoit Grouard & Francis Meston. Wiley £19.99
According to the authors, change is not 'natural' in business. That's handy for consultants, since it justifies extensive (and expensive) programmes to impose change on resistant organisations and their inhabitants. The Ten Keys are 'defining the vision; mobilising; catalysing; steering; delivering; obtaining participation; handling the emotional dimension; handling the power issues; training and coaching; and communicating actively'. All 10 are critical to success outside change programmes precisely because excellent management is naturally about recognising, reflecting and leading change. This programme is sound and lucid but laborious in the reading - and possibly in the execution.
Where did they spring from?
Where today's leaders came from and how admired they are
Background/experience % of most successful % of less successful
Financial 69 47
Time spent on shop floor 65 61
Degree 63 67
Training courses 56 69
Industry specialisation 52 78
Marketing 48 37
Good understanding of IT 42 59
Human resources 35 49
Which companies produce the best business leaders?
% of respondents '97 % of respondents '98
Marks & Spencer 4 16
ICI 13 4
Mars 0 4
Virgin 4 3
Hanson 0 3
BA 0 3
Source: KPMG Management Consulting British Business Leadership Survey
KPMG Management Consulting recently carried out a survey that looked at the views of 'more successful' business leaders (those from companies with profit growth over 30%) and 'less successful' ones (those with no profit growth). It examined what, if anything, separates the two groups in terms of experience. It also asked all respondents which companies they thought produced the best leaders. The results, especially when taken with those below are a ringing endorsement for - who else? - good old Marks & Spencer.
Who cares what the public thinks?
M&S is all ears where customers are concerned
Company pay more attention % pay less attention %
M&S 63 8
BT 45 20
Railtrack 15 42
McDonald's 33 28
Body Shop 52 10
BP Amoco 21 30
Nike 19 33
Virgin 50 10
Tesco 54 10
Source: Corporate Edge Corporate Omnibus Study.
All companies claim to care about what Joe Public thinks but some are rather better at making this evident than others, according to research from Corporate Edge. This asked punters whether they felt various concerns paid more or less attention to what they thought.
There is obviously more to caring than making a big noise - as proven by the fact that M&S came in ahead of breast-beating self-publicists such as the Body Shop and Virgin. The extent to which Nike's star has fallen is underscored by its placing behind oil giant BP Amoco and only a few per cent ahead of Railtrack.