BOOKS: Interaction at the Top Table

Management Today, December 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

BOOKS: Interaction at the Top Table


The Board Game; By Peter Waine; John Wiley pounds 18.99

The dynamics of relationships among boardroom colleagues are the running theme of this practical and sensible guide for directors, says Adrian Cadbury.

Peter Waine manages to compress a great deal of valuable advice for existing and aspiring directors in a compact and well-written book, which is a pleasure to read. He has drawn on his considerable experience to address issues that are barely covered in more formal management tomes.

The message I take away from The Board Game is the central importance of relationships in a director's world.

Waine deals with the key board relationship between the CEO and the chairman, but also the relationship between specialists and generalists, risk and caution, dreams and reality, strategy and structure, and organic growth (preferred) and acquisitions. Success in the board game depends on understanding the pattern of relationships within companies, a field in which Waine is a trustworthy guide. As he says: 'The board operates largely on relationships, which can be hard to read, easy to assume.'

His analysis of the relationship between directors and the sources of finance for their companies, whether in the City or in New York, is based on the need to understand their self-interest. He fears that boards are unduly deferential to bankers. This deference stems, he believes, from their ignorance of the workings of the Square Mile. His solution is to expose directors to the City at an earlier stage in their careers so that they can learn how it works in practice behind the facade. 'The City on the whole is not a welcomed partner but rather a cruel necessity,' he observes.

Waine finds room to cover issues relating to small and family firms, which can offer satisfying career opportunities in a world where their larger brethren are flattening their hierarchies and cutting rather than creating jobs. He also includes a down-to-earth chapter on how boards should approach expansion overseas, dealing particularly with extending their activities to the rest of the EU and the US.

In addition, Waine has written a thoughtful chapter on women in the boardroom, according the issue the importance it deserves. It has always seemed to me absurd to complain that it is hard to find the right kind of non-executive directors when the pool of talented women remains largely untapped. …

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