By Mike Hudson.
It is often said that consultants are people who borrow your
watch to tell you the time and then sell it back to you. Mike
Hudson is a management consultant who chose to work exclusively
with third sector organisations.
With this book he is giving back a gold watch to the sector,
rather than selling on re-gurgitated ideas.
It is rare to find a book which contains so much information,
based on direct experience, so well presented. It is a ‘dippers’
book. By that I mean that practising managers within the voluntary
sector, particularly those who have had limited formal training,
will be able to dip into this book and draw from a range of ideas
clearly based on considerable consultancy experience.
Hudson acknowledges Charles Handy as his mentor, and the layout
of this book is not dissimilar to that of Handy’s Understanding
It is full of panels and diagrams which assist in conveying a
clear understanding of subjects as diverse as strategic planning,
managing staff and developing effective processes within
The strength of the book is its roots in practical and pragmatic
advice. The case studies and examples which litter the pages of the
book both within the text provide interesting and educational
Hudson reminds his readers of the fuzzy nature of the boundaries
between the various sectors. In particular the third sector, public
sector and private sectors. This analysis is interesting but is by
no means uncontroversial.
A third group which includes previously public sector services
is the area of greatest contention. It is impossible to define
these boundaries for all time. They change and vary.
The 1980s and early 1990s have seen a significant shift between
the state and the third and private sectors.
What is not clear, particularly within the voluntary sector, is
whether these previously public sector agencies will constitute an
entirely new sector or be welcomed to sit alongside voluntary
organisations and charities given their government dependant
Hudson argues that the sector will expand rapidly, not
necessarily by the existing sector expanding, but by the addition
of this new sector.
I am not sure that in the end I would accept his view. NHS
trusts, Training and Enterprise Councils, housing associations and
grant-maintained schools have become separate segments in
themselves. It is difficult to see what these organisations and
other voluntary organisations might have in common.
But this is not primarily a book about policy. It is a book
about effective management and on that judgement it is one of the
best I have seen. It is long overdue and should be on every
voluntary sector manager’s bookshelf.
Stuart Etherington is chief executive National Council
of Voluntary Organisations.