Ronald Knox 1888-1957
Regular readers of this page (are there any?) will probably realise that “the theory of business” is a recurring theme. That’s partly because I have an MBA, which despite its reputation can be a highly theoretical degree in places, and also because my most recent former employer is the worst managed business I have ever come across. So every time I find new information about how businesses should be run I find it particularly interesting.
For example, this week’s edition of the Economist includes a Survey of Management (subscription required). As the introduction says:
This survey suggests that the core of good management is a set of three old-fashioned virtues that were often forgotten in the bubble years, when anything seemed to go. At a minimum, good managers have to meet the following criteria:
- be honest;
- be frugal;
- be prepared.
As is so often the case with business theory, this statement makes simple common sense, and I can’t help comparing it with my personal experience.
My former employer is incredibly old-fashioned (not surprising for a business founded in 1766), but lost sight of these principles long ago. It is not honest with customers or staff; it is extraordinarily wasteful, which is one reason why it is not very profitable (it actually made a loss in 2001); and it is rarely well prepared, which is why many business decisions are knee-jerk responses to fast moving events.
Had I known this was the case I would never have accepted the job offer, let alone promotion. How do you determine if a prospective employer subscribes to the Economist’s principles before it’s too late?
Just so you know what I mean by “old-fashioned” in the post above, BBC Radio has just announced that the British House of Commons has agreed that female Members of Parliament and staff will be allowed to breast-feed infants (with certain restrictions). My former employer only allowed women to wear trousers in 1998, at which rate breast-feeding should be permitted sometime around the year 2230!