What on earth is an “enterprise tsar”?
Whatever it is, Britain suddenly has one in the shape of Sir
Alan Sugar, bad-tempered host of the British version of the Apprentice.
No one asked for one. No one –least of all in business –
ever saw the need for one. Had anyone asked entrepreneurs what we wanted, we
would like to see a few government jobs cut rather than see yet another one
Indeed, the very expression, “enterprise tsar”, seems the
perfect example of an oxymoron: “enterprise” means individual initiative but
“tsar” means centralised authority.
Individual initiative is not something that can simply be
decreed by centralised authority.
Politicians like having “tsars”, or “czars”, because it
gives the impression that they are doing something. President Obama’s first
hundred days saw more new
“tsars” than the Romanoff dynasty in three hundred years.
The theory is that a powerful project manager can cut across
departments to get things done.
The reality is that a manager with no departmental power
base of his own rarely achieves anything.
So, instead of cutting through the moribund bureaucracy,
the” tsar” simply adds to it. There is just one more office to be added to
circulation lists, one more authority that can delay decisions.
No wonder you never hear of “tsars” being appointed in the
Even the historical precedent is against them. The original
Tsars of the Russian Empire were a case study in bad management practice: their
highly centralised bureaucracy was inefficient and inflexible. When the last
Tsar tried micro-managing the Great War, he gave up the mystique which was his
only real asset – and fell victim to a hostile takeover by a shrewd operator
Although an economic illiterate, Lenin understood management
structures. His “people’s revolution” was in fact the work of a small, tight,
very efficient organisation, nothing like the bureaucracy it became.
It is a strange thing for a capitalist to admit, but a
modern entrepreneur can learn more about good management from Lenin than from