Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Exposure by Michael Woodford - a review

[Originally published on the Aspley Consultants website]

‘Exposure’ by Michael Woodford (former President and CEO of Olympus Corporation)is a fascinating account of his discovery of inappropriate accounting practices, his efforts to gain reassurance from his Board colleagues, his ultimate dismissal from the company and the ensuing scandal and collapse in Olympus’s share price.

As a study in defensive behaviour and a desire to inhibit learning it may be unsurpassed.

The first I heard of this affair was when Michael Woodford was interviewed on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, just 2 days after his being fired.  Since then I have followed the story and was pleased to read more of the detail in this (bizarrely, given its subject matter: accounting) exciting book.

I won’t give away too much, not least because some of the finer details of the special purpose vehicles, goodwill payments and advisory fees might have passed me by. However, there is much content here that provides ammunition to those of us that believe honesty, leadership and an avoidance of defensive behaviour are essential if we are to (a) know ‘what happened’ and (b) learn from it.

Woodford has much to say on Japanese business culture, for good or bad.  However, readers from all backgrounds will recognise behaviour they have experienced (or displayed) that is designed to hide the truth and maintain a false impression, thereby preventing others from learning.

I give this book 7/10.  I’d have been a bit more generous but for a little bit of padding here and there, resulting in it lagging a bit.  A good read, nonetheless.

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