The reference in the title, of course, is to getting beaten into submission and brainwashed, something I’ve never said out loud that the Big 4 does, but which a respected columnist at the Financial Times is willing to say. I love those cheeky Brits!
Some choice excerpts:
“Forty-one years ago, chairman Mao distributed 900m copies of The Little Red Book to the people of China. A couple of weeks ago, Deloitte distributed thousands of copies of The Little Blue Book of Strategy to its US employees.
Apart from the difference in colour, the two books have much in common. Both came with the instruction that they should be carried around and referred to often. The red book was a tool for brainwashing and torture. The blue book is also a tool for brainwashing and torture, though the brainwashing is not terribly likely to succeed and the torture is suffered by business logic, taste and style.
Sharp-eyed readers may note this is the second time in a month I have written about Deloitte: three weeks ago I wondered if a motivational memo written by Jim Quigley, the new CEO, might be the worst ever written. In the normal run of things, I would now ignore Deloitte and let other companies take their turn. Yet the Blue Book is drivel of such a richly contemporary kind that all principles of even-handedness go out of the window.
The little volume arrived at employees’ homes in an envelope that said “Your Little Blue Book of Strategy. Compliments of Jim Quigley and Barry Salzberg.”…
The book’s subtitle, An Abridged Guide to All the Important Stuff You Need to Know, hints that all is not well in this simple, jargon-free world. The clue is the word “stuff”. This word does not belong in a strategy document at all, particularly not from an auditor. Neither do many of the words to be found inside. “Guys” and “you bet” and “loads of” – the language sounds as if a management consultant has mated with a teenager from the 1970s who doesn’t know where to put full stops…
One of the values is diversity. Here is what the book has to say on this hackneyed theme: “We strive to make our world comfortable for people of all stripes, thinking styles and hairdos – even when they exceed our comfort level.”
Again, the extraordinary linguistic hybrid: the “comfort levels” cheek by jowl with the jocular yet baffling reference to hair. Does this imply Deloitte’s customers must steel themselves for the arrival of consultants with blue mohicans or greasy comb-overs? Even more mystifying is the assertion that Deloitte welcomes diversity of thought. If this were the case why would staff need a little book telling them how to think?
On the second last page there is a check-list of 10 points to see if you are “living the strategy”, including “I reach high” and “I make things happen” and “I fuss over the grey areas”. Only this last did I tick with conviction, thinking we were back on hairdos again. But then it turned out to be referring to an obsession with integrity, which I don’t suffer from quite so badly.
There is much to marvel at in the Little Blue Book but the pièce de resistance is the page entitled Our Pledge. “The promise of our brand. To that we pledge allegiance,” it says.
To pledge allegiance to the US flag and to “one Nation under God” may have become a bit un-PC, but at least one can understand the history of it. To pledge allegiance not just to a brand, but to a promise of a brand, you’d have to be utterly daft. And if you were that daft, I wouldn’t want you anywhere near my audit.”