Today I have an excerpt from one of the three books involved in the blitz, MBA by Douglas Board.
Why is so much of the world managed by arseholes? When workaholic business school hot shot Ben Stillman is fired, he has the chance to find out. Not a guy to sit still, Ben jumps head first into turning his former business school into a world-class madrassa of capitalism.
Ben has ten days to rescue the launch of its spectacular glass tower, and his own career – ten days during which he will have to confront terrorist plots, undercover police, the extravagant demands of the super-rich, and the only woman who can save him from this madness.
A satirical thriller, a love story, and a wry look at modern management ideology all rolled into one – MBA is a piercing yet hopeful enquiry into the meaning of success.
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Why is so much of the world managed by arseholes? ‘MBA’ – the abbreviation for a master’s degree in business administration – is a farce set at an English business school run by globe-trotting American professor William C Gyro. When Ben, a high-flying graduate of the college, is suddenly fired for no reason, Gyro asks him to rescue the very imminent, star-studded opening of a spectacular all-glass tower.
Good stories have interesting female characters, preferably a diversity of them. In ‘MBA’ one of them is Dianne Peach-Gyro, Gyro’s politically super-connected wife. Here she is in full flow, at a point where the opening of the tower is in trouble, but nothing compares with the pandemonium to come.
The chair swung from side to side, propelled by slim, tanned calves bred on the latest running machines and salon treatments. Steepled fingers graced with two platinum rings and a yellow stone waited in impatience. A low cleavage revealed rolling sand dunes awaiting a storm. High heels in mango yellow matched a very short skirt in the same colour. Dianne Peach-Gyro had called the meeting which began when Gyro arrived five minutes late.
‘Why do I waste my time? Why do I waste my time? What a shambles, the pair of you. Neither of you returned my calls yesterday.’ The trail of nail varnish in the air indicated Gyro and Ben in turn, but Dianne was not waiting for answers.
‘While youhave been making panda bear eyes at Communist fat cats who intend to have the college for dinner, this idiot wasted my time by provoking a delegation of the sisterhood to call on me threatening a strike. By going on bended knee I have held that off until next week. I thought we might want to do that so that the Prime Minister can come here this Thursday to announce the most important breakthrough in Hampton’s miserable history.’
‘Darling, congratulations!’ exclaimed Gyro.
‘Thank you. I wanted to tell you yesterday but that plan needed one of you to be sufficiently bothered to return my call. The announcement will be for £8m of investment in this college, as the first step in a £120m national investment programme in British business schools to bring management skills in the NHS up to world-class standards.
‘The fact that on Thursday a range of business leaders of the highest international distinction will be here to mark the opening of the tower will provide, in the Prime Minister’s view, an excellent symbol of what achieving world-class in Britain means. I agree.’
Gyro rushed forward and pecked his wife on the cheek. ‘Darling, I’m speechless.’
‘That makes a pleasant change. Of course there are details to be sorted. I assume that is what we are paying Ben for, if he can spare any time between incidents of gender warfare.’
‘Of course he can, darling. But how did you pull it off?’
‘On your travels you won’t have had time to notice, darling, but our little island changed its prime minister a year ago. Right away I saw that the new one needed to put a stamp of his own on how to modernise the NHS. The choice and markets agenda was old hat, the gap for something new was wide open.
Dianne shrugged. ‘The jig-saw pieces were staring us in the face. Hampton trains NHS managers. Better managers means a better service for patients and investing in the skills of our workforce. Spice it up to be world-class ‒I’m afraid I traded shamelessly on your reputation, will you forgive me? ‒stir for twelve months and now Ed Lens is gagging to hear from Ben as we speak. Indeed he and I were waiting for a good part of yesterday. Never mind: the concept and the headline figures are agreed, as is the pertinence of launching this Thursday. All that’s left is dotting i’s and crossing a few t’s.’
Gyro looked at Ben sharply. ‘Ben will be on to it right away. He might be able to manage a little English punctuation.’ Ben could see Gyro pondering how to retrieve the initiative. ‘Talk to Ed, Ben, and prepare an options paper for Dianne and I to consider this evening.’
‘My thoughts exactly, darling.’
Douglas Board is the author of the campus satire MBA (Lightning Books, 2015), which asked why so much of the business world is Managed By Arseholes. Time of Lies, his second novel, is a timely exploration of the collapse of democracy.
Born in Hong Kong, he has degrees from Cambridge and Harvard and worked for the UK Treasury and then as a headhunter. He has also had a distinguished career in public life, serving as treasurer of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and chairing the British Refugee Council.
As well as writing fiction, he is the author of two applied research books on leadership, which was the subject of his doctorate. He is currently a senior visiting fellow at the Cass Business School in London. He and his wife Tricia Sibbons live in London and Johannesburg.