Bringing marshmallows and coals to teamwork; People & Business

The Book That's Sweeping America! has just plonked on my desk. This, to me, is the perfect antidote to those legions of tedious American management books which bring together born-again earnestness with mind- numbing biz-babble.

The author, Stephen Michael Peter Thomas, shamefully admits in the introduction that "none of his ideas are actually new or different enough to challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable in any way".

The book claims to be interactive, since "you can read the words in any order you want to". It includes challenging exercises for modern executives who need "concrete in their business practice (always a useful tool)". These teamwork exercises include "changing a tyre at 80 mph", "taking charge of a big ship" and "bomb disposal squad".

The book also mercilessly pillories management jargon, with swipes at the learning organisation, and how easily it can turn into the "forgetting organisation," how to create the humour-free work place and "managing change". My favourite is the staff exercise pushing a marshmallow (product) across a bed of white-hot coals (development process) to the far side (the market.)

All in all, an essential purgative for anyone who has just taken an MBA.

I think Mr Thomas could have had a hand in a press release from the Co-operative Bank I've just received hymning the bank's commitment to "an inclusive partnership approach to its business activities and to providing regular, independently audited reports on its performance with each partner".

The bank's managing director, Terry Thomas, carries on with more of this incomprehensible twaddle: "If companies are to succeed in the long term they must understand the needs of the various natural partners in a business and that each partner must be treated in balance - not equally, not in preference but in balance and across time."

Has Mr Thomas been studying at the feet of the Dalai Lama, or is this merely an attempt to emulate his namesake, the popular 1950s film comedian?

Mr Thomas adds that "we believe this all-in approach is the way all businesses will be run in the 21st century". Book your prayer-mat in the ashram now.

One hundred and sixty years of English brewing history drew to a close yesterday when Eldridge, Pope sold its original Thomas Hardy Brewery in Dorchester to the management for pounds 2.4m.

Jeremy Pope, Eldridge, Pope's chief executive and the fourth generation to head the family company, says he feels no pangs of regret: "I would be more emotional if I didn't think we were doing the right thing for the people who work at the brewery."

He has sold the brewery to Peter Ward, a former production director at Bass whom Mr Pope recruited two years ago to be general manager.

Hard commercial logic dictated that Eldridge, Pope should concentrate on its fast-growing pub chain, says Mr Pope. The company now owns 200- odd pubs, with two about to open in the City - The Slurping Toad in Bishopsgate and Bar Excellence in Cornhill.

A year ago, Mr Pope put the company's brewing and packaging interests into the newly formed Thomas Hardy Brewery, and freed his pubs to buy beer wherever they wished. He will continue to lease the Grade II listed premises built in 1880 to Mr Ward, and will sit on the board.

As for Mr Pope, he continues the family traditions. Only family members are allowed to hold fully voting shares in Eldridge, Pope. "Archetypal nepotism, I suppose," he says. Whatever, I rate Eldridge, Pope shares a buy.

Stakis has appointed Ian Payne as managing director of Stakis Casinos. Mr Payne, 44, is currently managing director of Gala Clubs, a division of Bass Leisure, with responsibility for no less than 138 bingo clubs in the UK.

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