WHAT AMERICA DOES RIGHT by Jr. Waterman

WHAT AMERICA DOES RIGHT

Learning from Companies That Put People First
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Still in search of instructive excellence, consultant Waterman (The Renewal Factor, etc.) offers a relentlessly upbeat briefing on what he views as the managerial lessons to be learned from presumptively paradigmatic US enterprises. Citing data from the OECD as well as other sources to argue (contrary to popular belief) that per capita wealth creation in America remains appreciably higher than in other industrial powers (France, Germany, Japan, et al), the author focuses on a relatively small sample of domestic companies and institutions. In addition to blue-chippers like AES (nÇ Applied Energy Services), Federal Express, Levi Strauss, Motorola, Proctor & Gamble, Rubbermaid, and Sun Microsystems, their ranks include Public School 94 in the Bronx, New York. Waterman argues that his chosen role models outperform their rivals (or counterparts) because they are better organized to meet the needs of employees and consumers. This claim may strike some as overstated in light of P&G's recently announced plans to lay off 12% of its worldwide work force by mid-1995. Be that as it may, the author commends a host of operational and personnel policies he observed in practice at various venues: ceding greater control to lower-level workers; establishing training programs that permit promotion from within; recognizing accomplishment; and making a genuine commitment to quality. While much of Waterman's counsel is unexceptionable, he does embrace the trendy concept of stakeholders, which holds that for-profit concerns should consider the (often conflicting) interests of all their constituencies, e.g., customers, employees, host communities, and vendors as well as those of shareholders. As a practical matter, this invitingly feel-good theory, the author concedes, has yet to achieve much acceptance in the capitalist system. The bottom line: anecdotal happy talk that promises far more in the way of socioeconomic rewards than its New Age precepts can plausibly deliver.

Pub Date: March 21st, 1994
ISBN: 0-393-03597-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1994