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First the good news. John Roberts, chief executive of the Post Office, has been elected president of the European Foundation for Quality Management, a prestigious forum of top Euro bosses.

Now the bad: Today's issue of Which? magazine rips into the Post Office, accusing it of "parcels left unprotected from would-be thieves, wrong advice on basic enquiries and a haphazard letter redirection service".

The voice of the Consumers' Association thunders: "The Post Office fails to get the stamp of approval from Which?"

Malcolm Coles, assistant editor of the mag, concludes: "With no close competitors, the Post Office has little incentive to change. We think the Government should introduce a regulator to set and enforce standards of advice and delivery."

Not much Quality Management there, it would seem. Let's hope for Mr Roberts' sake that not too many copies of the mag reach the Continent in time for his inauguration. On the other hand, if Which? is right about the state of the postal service, the chances of copies getting that far seem reassuringly slim.

The cold snap sweeping the country evidently caught the Houses of Parliament unawares yesterday. Somebody had forgotten to turn on the heating in the Grand Committee Room, a bit of a mausoleum at the best of times, in which the Trade & Industry Select Committee was grilling the heads of the power industry.

Despite the resulting Arctic conditions, Graham Brown of National Power, Nick Baldwin of PowerGen and Jim Whelan of Eastern Group did their best to answer the MPs' questions.

Finally Martin O'Neill, the Labour chairman of the committee, could stand it no longer, and left the room to "answer a call of nature" although some cynical journalists decided he was just going to the men's room for warmth. As Mr O'Neill passed the bench of shivering journos, one croaked: "Can't you switch the heating on, Martin?"

The chairman glanced over his shoulder at the three power chiefs and muttered: "Ask them."

Anyone misbehaving at Royal Bank of Scotland had better watch out. The bank has just appointed David Cranston, a former senior Army officer, as its head of group compliance.

This doesn't mean that Mr Cranston will be bayoneting clerks who have been helping themselves to the office paper clips. He has, after all, been head of the Personal Investment Authority's member relations department since returning to Civvy Street in April 1995.

Before that he was the Army's deputy chief executive of the multinational airmobile division and he also helped monitor the Dubrovnik ceasefire in the former Yugoslavia.

Mr Cranston says his Army background has helped in his current job because of "the management skills and my experience as a senior executive - although my time at the PIA was more compelling".

"The Bank wanted someone to make the compliance department that little bit more proactive," he added. All of which should give Royal Bank employees twitchy shoulder blades.

The Institute of Management has entered enthusiastically into the festive spirit by publishing a small collection of favourite management sayings which it promises "will enable you to bluff your way out of any tight conversational squeeze".

The book, It's a wise sage ... (that knows his onions) advises: "If at first you don't succeed, redefine success." On the subject of leadership, the collection of bons mots says: "If you are never the lead dog, the scenery never changes."

And here's one for the accountants: "Numbers are like people: torture them enough and they'll tell you anything."

The book is available at pounds 4.50 from Lavis marketing. Phone 0345 023736.

A colleague of mine was swapping some light-hearted badinage yesterday with Price Waterhouse's technical partner, Ian Wright, about accounting for goodwill and intangible assets, at the end of which the former enquired: "And how do you spell your name? Like the footballer?"

"Yes, like the footballer. In, fact he's my next door neighbour," Mr Wright replied.

It transpires that Mr Wright, the bean counter, lives next to Mr Wright, the striker, arguably Arsenal's most prized intangible asset, and some post inevitably goes through the wrong letterbox. "I keep getting fan mail and stuff like that for him," said the Price Waterhouse man. "I just wish I got his cheques."

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