The Management Game

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE MANAGEMENT GAME is one of the many recent books that deliberately disregard conventional partitions of literary genres. It would have to be shelved in the nonfiction section at the library or bookstore, yet most of its contents are dramatic narratives. The protagonist is Ed Cunningham, a fictitious young man who has recently been made a senior vice president at a multinational corporation called “Consolidated Commodities, Inc.” The book covers one year in Ed’s life and describes the kinds of problems such a highly placed executive faces. These problems naturally include coping with a wide range of high-powered personalities, many of whom, reflective of today’s times, are shrewd and competitive career women.

Most of the chapters deal with important decisions Ed must make with regard to merchandising, advertising, expansion, divestiture, personnel changes, and other facets of management. His options are spelled out, and the reader is invited to test his own managerial acumen by choosing an option along with the hero. At the end of the book, the probable outcomes of the various options are explained and the choices rated, with the best choice in each situation receiving the highest number of points. By adding up his total score, the reader may evaluate his own performance as a top executive.

This kind of case-history instruction, pioneered by Harvard Business School, has become a standard teaching tool at most of the graduate business schools in the country. Both of the authors have strong ties to Harvard Business School. Ardis Burst received her M.B.A. there after having served on the faculty as a researcher, while Leonard A. Schlesinger is an associate professor of business administration at the school. Both also have practical managerial experience in the food industry, which explains why they have chosen to place their protagonist in that corporate milieu.

The remarkable proliferation of books on management in recent years can probably be explained by the fact that so many managers at all levels now have college backgrounds and are conditioned to look for answers in books. THE MANAGEMENT GAME seems intended to appeal primarily to ambitious young men and women climbing the corporate ladder. It will provide such readers with entertainment as well as useful vicarious experience.