THE GOOD BUSINESS BOOK GUIDE
Robert Heller reviews the latest business books
CHANGING PARADIGMS: The Transformation of Management Knowledge for the 21st Century by Thomas Clarke and Thomas Stewart, HarperCollins £19.99
As tidal waves of discontinuity have buffeted management, so tomes have poured forth on the major arenas of upheaval: globalisation, information, strategy, organisation, governance, and the environment. This volume covers the lot, from Delaware corporate law to virtual companies, from Chinese tariffs to the internet. Oddly, for a 1998 book, the net rates four somewhat perfunctory pages out of 502. That size actually represents miraculous compression, given that the authors quote copiously (too copiously) from almost every significant writer on their themes and reprint innumerable tables and graphs. Good, clear writing and condensation are plentiful, but ideas of their own are few. Their literary monument does stress one heartfelt theme: 'Sustainability is the key strategic imperative.' In other words, it's the environment, stupid. But in a discontinuous world?
** Take on a trip
THE WAR LORDS: Measuring Strategy and Tactics for Competitive Advantage in Business by Jorge Vasconcellos e Sa, Kogan Page £18.99
This book is a curious throwback to corporate planning's heyday, when massed MBAs marshalled analysis and academic theories to attack strategy. Irrelevant portraits, including Einstein, Napoleon and 'T Levitt' (presumably, Ted), interrupt countless arid charts and often pedantic prose. The title rests on a short opening about Hannibal's strategy at Cannae. Otherwise, military analogy contributes little to a thorough but sometimes erroneous textbook (Xerox never made mainframe computers), which omits both customer focus and transforming vision, the twin cores of modern strategic thought.
* Strictly for addicts
LEARNING TO FLY: Leadership & Performance in the Boardroom by Angela Vint, Carlena Recaldin and Des Gould, Kogan Page £25
Coaching sounds remote from corporate governance. But, as management consultants, the authors naturally argue that coached directors are better ones. They sometimes blunder into the blindingly obvious while discussing the changing context for boardroom work, viz 'the decision as to whether the UK will join (EMU) has ramifications for business'. The authors should include strategy, though strangely they believe that companies 'often leave strategic planning to a graduate or consultant'. They mistakenly think boards can develop strategy independently from a management whose senior members sit on boards, often as managing barons. Directors, they say, require strategic thinking, commercial focus, communication and interpersonal skills, while being analytical and detail-conscious, results-oriented team players. That, surely, applies to all managers.
*** Worth a special effort
AFTERNOON TEE TAKES THE BISCUIT
Golf is clearly the most popular form of corporate hospitality
It may be a cliche that more business deals than balls are struck on the average golf course but, if you want your corporate hospitality to go with a swing, a day on the fairway is hard to beat. So says a survey of corporate hospitality, conducted by NOP on behalf of Gardner Merchant Leisure. Participatory golf days were 28% more popular than their nearest rival, Premiership football matches.
Sport dominates the top of the table, with nine of the top 10 most popular events but, apart from golf, guests generally aren't keen to participate in sport. Go-karting, ballooning and fishing all score only 3% each. The guests appear to have little influence on the choice of event. Of the companies surveyed, 35% said the chief executive makes that decision, which might explain why the table is so heavily laced with the passions of middle-class, middle-aged males.
MOST POPULAR CORPORATE HOSPITALITY EVENTS
(% companies holding them in past year)
Golf days (where guests can play) 71%
Premiership or league football games 43%
Horse racing (other than Ascot) 42%
Theatre or opera 39%
Five Nations Championship rugby match 33%
LEAST POPULAR CORPORATE HOSPITALITY EVENTS
(% companies holding them in past year)
SOURCE: Gardner Merchant Corporate Hospitality Research 1998
HIRING EASIER WHEN THE FLEET IS IN
Companies would get rid of cars if they didn't help recruitment
FLEET MANAGER ATTITUDES TO COMPANY CARS
85% View company car as part of benefit package
79% Would pay road tolls on business mileage
69% Offer free fuel for private use of company cars
65% Say company car is essential for recruitment and retention
48% Offer cash alternative to company cars
25% Have read Government transport White Paper
4% Run 'green' LPG-fuelled cars
3% Have car sharing schemes
1% Have 'green' transport policy
SOURCE: Godfrey Davis/Employee Benefits
Most company car drivers are unlikely to swap their keys for a travel pass without a struggle. That is the message from a survey of 506 businesses, which currently provide vehicles for at least some of their employees.
Despite the fact that 20% of companies would like to get rid of their fleet, the company car's traditional position at the pinnacle of the perks list seems unchanged. Cars are essential for recruitment, say 65%, while 24% report that staff using their own cars for business could damage the company's image. Only 1% have an environmentally friendly transport policy. Car sharing schemes are marginally more popular at 3%. Substituting a cash alternative for a car is an option in 48% of companies but the take-up of such schemes is as low as 4%. So, it doesn't look as though we shall see many sales reps on the bus for a while yet.