Used price: $4.00
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Fun for kids, equally interesting to this adult.
List price: $45.00 (that's 56% off!)
Before buying, be aware that you're paying almost $1 per page, and will have absorbed the book's contents in under 5 minutes. Personally, I feel cheated.
Used price: $45.73
Roger's interest is in explaining how the culture of organisations impacts on the strategies they develop. His work is not heavily quantitative and it is largely based on personal interviews with senior individuals in the banking sector. Most remarkable about the strategies of the Big Four in the 1990s was that three of them had no strategy at all. Barclays', Natwest and Midland raced to expand into providing a full range of financial and brokering services as soon as deregulation allowed. Cumulatively they lost billions of pounds, destroyed shareholder value and failed to achieve their aim of becoming international 'global banking' firms. Lloyds was the only exception, choosing in the 1980s and 1990s to emphasis commercial (retail) banking and in the process becoming the most successful and highest capitalised of the British banks.
What was the key difference? In Roger's terms Lloyds' succeeded because they alone of the big four developed a rigorous strategic plan to direct their policies by emphasising doing only those things that made money. In contrast the big three spent hundreds of millions of pounds in doubtful acquisitions and disastrous loans, none of which were based on careful strategic planning. Copying behaviour, a competition to be 'number one' in the UK and - one is forced to conclude - sheer stupidity led these banks into loosing billions.
Rogers is a very able writer and although an academic study his subject matter makes for fascinating reading. The book will be valuable to anyone interested in the importance of strategic planning and how it intersects with organisational culture. At this price, though, try getting your library to order a copy.
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The World Bank is full of optimism. Then again, it shows good reason for this outlook. It outlines the substantial advances that have been made over the past few decades in poverty reduction and advances in health and education in the developing world, identifying the World Bank's role in these advances, as one component of a complex, cooperative effort. For instance, the Bank indicates that:
Over the past 40 years, life expectancy at birth in developing countries has increased by 20 years - about as much as was achieved in all of human history prior to the middle of the 20th century.
Over the past 30 years, illiteracy in the developing world has been cut nearly in half, from 47 percent to 25 percent in adults.
Over the past 20 years, the absolute number of people living on less than $1 a day, after rising steadily for the last 200 years, has for the first time begun to fall, even as the world's population has grown by 1.6 billion people.
The book's main message is that foreign development aid is reaching a level of sophistication that translates into dramatic improvements in the human condition like never before. This aid is lifting people out of poverty, improving their health and education, and contributing to the stability and security of the entire world. As the book says, "Aid is not simply a transfer payment for the consumption of poor people, but an investment in improved policies and institutions. The best aid finances the costs of change, rather than the costs of not changing."
The Bank's vision is grand and inspiring. This is far more than a financial treatise; it is instead a bold blueprint for raising the human condition throughout the globe. With such reach, it touches on much of the agenda for foreign affairs, and makes for compelling reading for anyone concerned with international relations. As the Bank aspires, "we must make globalization stand for common humanity, not for commercial brands or competitive advantage."