Media: The troubleshooter's parting shot: Despite the success of his BBC programme, Sir John Harvey-Jones is getting out of the TV personality business, says Glyn Jones

THE BBC's Troubleshooter is over for good. Last night's programme on the uncertainties of the brewing business was the last in this series, and marked the end of a surprisingly successful attempt to portray the dangers, hopes and anguish inherent in managing British industry during an economic hurricane.

Sir John Harvey-Jones, the 68-year-old former chairman of ICI, has decided not to do any more programmes as complex as this one. Having to go to each location as many as four times meant the latest series of seven programmes took up 50 weeks of his schedule.

'After all, I do a lot of charitable work and want to do more. I want to spend more time at home,' Sir John explained. 'Although I am willing to do things like Question Time, I have no interest in becoming a TV personality, or speaking other people's words for them.'

Using his own, often devastating, words in gutting British business has made him essential viewing for at least three million people, who each week have awaited the frank judgements Sir John meted out - with his characteristic manic cackle - to sometimes bemused managers. 'You are being killed by slow strangulation . . . The situation is barmy and intolerable . . . It is possible to break through but only if you charge the guns . . .'

Usually his victims grin and bear it. 'I've met some really marvellous people struggling to make a go of things in the worst conditions we've had in 50 years,' Sir John said. 'The way they've taken very tough words from me and taken - or rejected - my advice has been wonderful. And it was all done in live conditions. Any time I could have come away with egg all over my face.'

This sense of danger was Troubleshooter's strength. But why were so many bosses lured into a public striptease in which they revealed problems that would better be kept secret, most of all from their competitors? During one of the longuers that go with filming, Sir John made it clear that he wanted to help businessmen and women to help themselves.

Although the first step was public exposure, plenty of people still volunteered for it. After the first Troubleshooter series, hundreds of managers wrote in to ask if Sir John would nip along and help out with serious problems within their own companies.

'Normally I only saw published accounts and management plans beforehand. Then I selected the companies with Richard Reisz, the BBC's executive producer,' Sir John explained. 'When I got to the factory what I was looking for was the evenness with which management effort was spread across the business - that no one area was being neglected in pursuit of another.

'You can see with your own eyes what things are like on the shop floor. Is it tidy? Is the flow of materials right? Do people look you in the eye or do they look downcast? Is the floor planned efficiently? Do superiors know their jobs and are prices high enough?'

From these clues and his experience, Sir John made up his mind about the overall efficiency of a company. He was relentless and brutally candid in questioning top management about business strategies, but it was always possible to see what he was driving at. We shall never know how many other managers saved their companies by asking themselves the questions he asked on television.

The fact that so many companies are ready to unveil their secrets is proof of the need for a regular series that tackles industrial problems in the way in which Troubleshooter has. The first series, three years ago, built up an audience of three million and the second series set out with three million from programme one. This kind of success, winning the first series a special Bafta award, is beyond anything normally attained by programmes about business or management.

After the first series most of the companies taking part were benefiting. True, the Morgan sports car company did not take Sir John's advice and the family-owned fruit juice company diversified in a way that alarmed him. The biggest success was the pottery firm that did much as he suggested and has now quadrupled its profits. 'If we had more of those we should not be in the bloody mess we are in at the moment,' were Sir John Harvey-Jones's parting words.

(Photograph omitted)

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: Joining as a Resourcer / Juni...

Head of Design & UX / UX Architect

£55 - 70k: Guru Careers: Head of Design & UX / UX Architect is needed to join ...

Media and Entertainment Lawyer - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - A specialist opportunity with ...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories