Your IndustryMay 30 2013

Book Review: Management in Ten Words

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ByKeith Carby

I hate it when authors and publishers give their books titles like, “Speak Mandarin in a Minute” or, “Venice on Five Pounds a Day”.

So it took the remarkable track record of Sir Terry Leahy, former supremo of Tesco, to get me to go anywhere near his book. I am glad I did.

As a guide for practitioners, this is one of the best books on management I have read in years.

The title refers to the organisation of the book. The author uses 10 key words (for example, Truth, Loyalty, Courage, Trust) as chapter headings. Each word encapsulates precepts that Sir Terry believes to be essential building blocks of good management.

By any standards, Sir Terry is an A-lister. In his 14 years as chief executive of Tesco, he took them from third place behind Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s to becoming a global retailer six times bigger than those two domestic rivals.

Perhaps the single factor that underpins both the story and the advice about management is his total commitment to consumer-centricity. Even without being told, it is blatantly obvious that the author is a marketing man. His take on management is driven by the notion that commerce starts and ends with the consumer.

Sir Terry attributes the turnaround at Tesco to several changes but he has no doubt that most significant was the launch of Clubcard, one of the world’s first ‘shopper loyalty’ schemes.

The fact that this was launched in 1995 was both brave and innovative, given the messy demise of ‘Green Shield Stamps’ a short while before. Sir Terry was out to build customer loyalty and he believed that launching Clubcard would tell Tesco what it should do to develop that invaluable asset. Clubcard became an enormous success and now, over 43m people around the world use a Tesco loyalty card. And all the time, they are providing the company with vital information that can be used to build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

It is abundantly clear that Sir Terry did not see Clubcard as a marketing project initiated by management. He saw consumer-centricity as being an essential element in the nature of good management. It is not something that good management just does. It is something that good management is.

I have never met Sir Terry and I do not know anyone who has worked closely with him. However, from the book, I think quite of lot of us would have enjoyed the experience.