BOOKCASE Money and Managing

Burdon: Man Of Our Time
By: Edmund Bohan
Publisher: Hazard Press
Price: $34.99

Burdon: Man Of Our Time is the story of the victory of pragmatic politics over narrow ideological focus. As New Zealand changed from an Anglocentric offshore farm into multicultural Pacific nation trying to cope with the crusading fervour of Rogernomics, self-made millionaire of conservative origins cast his brand of cautious gradualism across the political landscape.
Author Edmund Bohan highlights the polarising views around Philip Burdon’s contribution to New Zealand society and the economy. Some, like the National Business Review, believe he was guilty of taking the country back towards “fortress New Zealand”, while supporters see him as shining light of reason in time of economic revolution.
New Zealand was transformed radically during Burdon’s 15 years as member of parliament but the brave decisions were not his. Ever the conciliator, always taking the middle road, he was man who avoided confrontation and backed away from leadership. Finally, when the hard times of returning to the opposition benches loomed, he retreated from politics altogether.
To his credit, Burdon consistently promoted the interests of business without wavering from his belief in liberal social policy. In opposition he resisted Labour’s crude monetarism and promoted the need for vibrant productive sector. Then as minister he successfully halted the Richardson juggernaut and the worst excesses of the “mother of all budgets”.
His greatest achievement was his contribution to the completion of the Uruguay round of Gatt, which despite offering no instant bonanza for New Zealand did pave the way for number of future gains.
Burdon was an important “man of our time”. Unfortunately there is not enough of the personal, of what made the man tick, in the Bohan account. As an historical report of Burdon’s life the book has value but as portrayal of the man behind the public face it disappoints. Without an appreciation of the flaws and the foibles of Burdon the man, it is dry read. GM

The Roaring Nineties
By: Joseph Stiglitz
Publisher: Penguin Books
Price: $28.00

For free market and less government advocates Joseph Stiglitz is probably off the reading list. But for more rational readers his expose of the economic politics that led to and fuelled the executive and corporate excesses of the 1990s this book will enthral.
The former World Bank chief economist and then chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors roundly and soundly rubbished the vested interest politics of world trade in his Globalisation and its Discontents. In The Roaring Nineties, the Economics Nobel Prize winner compellingly explains the distorting impact personal greed, facilitated by the ideologically-driven economic policies of successive US and British governments since Reagan and Thatcher, has had on executive remuneration, the future of capitalism and the prospects for society in general.
Stiglitz concedes that he is an advocate of third way, mix of market and intervention because, as he explains, there is no such thing as “perfect” marketplace. And for 12 years during the Reagan and Bush 1 administrations in the US, national economic policy was driven by free market ideologues who idealised the private sector and demonised government programmes and regulations. And even Clinton, he concedes, was in large measure captured by the need to keep business on side, which in turn meant kowtowing to corporations.
But the evidence of the ’90s shows that the “invisible hand” of market-driven economic efficiency was simply convenient intellectual platform on which chief executives could argue that by doing well for themselves they were doing good for society. “Not only should they feel no guilt in greed; they should feel pride.”
Considering the likely harvest of consequences flowing from the current US administration’s penchant for tax cuts for top income earners, protection for favoured industries such as the energy sector, the retention of some dubious accounting practices and the return to mind-boggling US government deficits, this book explains many of the probable outcomes.
But as Stiglitz explains; fights about taxes, government programmes and ideologically based economic strategies are just “skirmishes”. The real battle is, he argues, more profound. “It is about the nature of society and the relationship between the individual and the society.” In Western societies where the individual is central, the argument that suggests each individual’s success is the result of his or her own efforts alone, is getting harder to sustain.
Stiglitz presents thoughtful case for what he calls new democratic idealism based on vision and values. The reality is that economic thinking needs to go beyond economics. And like it or not, economics and society are intertwined. Societies with massive inequalities will be vastly different from ones in which disparities are limited. Individuals and governments will eventually be forced to choose. RB

Financial Times Handbook of Management
Edited by: Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove
Publisher: Pearson Education
Price: $120

At $120 and almost 2000 pages it pays to consider the third edition of the Financial Times Handbook of Management as an investment or an organisational asset. For serious students of the practice of management it probably fits the bill on both counts.
The FT Handbook is quick to reference source of both inspirational and everyday practical writings on everything from commentaries on the state of the art of management to half dozen classic case studies.
Since the editor compiled the first edition back in 1995 everything in the manager’s world has changed. “Today’s dominant force is tomorrow’s sideshow. Fashions and best practice change.”
Contributors include top thinkers like Warren Bennis, Peter Drucker, Gary Hamel, Charles Handy, Philip Kotler, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, CK Prahalad and host of others. They discuss strategy and competition, globalisation, managing human resources, marketing, finance, organisation, ideas, information and knowledge, entrepreneurship and ethics.
And they write about the skills needed to manage globally, lead, manage change, communicate effectively, manage self and career, make things happen and develop and learn. The editors’ aims for the Handbook are to “help managers do their jobs more effectively”. To this end, there is greater emphasis in this edition on the practicalities of managing with, for instance, new section on skills. They claim that 90 percent of the content is new and different from previous editions.
In addition to traditional mainstream thinking and ideas, this edition also explores the economic downturn, recent US corporate scandals and the lasting impact of the 1990s’ technology boom.
Thoughtful material close to hand and quick to access can’t be bad thing for every manager contemplating options in everyday situations. As American HR writer and thinker Meg Wheatly pointed out when she spoke to the NZIM Leadership Summit in Auckland last October and reminds us in this book: “We know so much more today about workplaces, about marketplaces, and about human beings; yet, given today’s tough economic climate, many managers are making huge leaps backwards. They are clamping down, acting reactionary, barking orders. Fear is driving managers to be ‘old school’ in their behaviours.” The occasional flick through the FT Handbook might help counter some of this instinctive backward looking approach to managing the future.
All this might be found on the web but for my money, you can’t beat book like this for instant access. And it feels authoritative which I guess is part of the tactile appeal of print that lingers with some of us. RB

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