Book Review: Business Sutra

Published April 28, 2013 by vishalvkale

This is one of the most difficult books to pen a review on, a book that is almost limitless in its reservoir of knowledge and wisdom, a book that provides a veritable treasure trove of fables and learnings, a book that is to be treasured, a path of discovery to be undertaken, an experience to be savoured… a book that will leave you richer for the experience, and wiser for the titbits of knowledge; a book that will stay with you for a very long time… a book that will provide each reader with at least one powerful takeaway
For this review, I am adopting a different style altogether; the reason is that the book is so wide and comprehensive, that I freely sumbit that I cannot do justice to the entire content in a review – at least, not in a fashion that will hold the readers” interest. That would require in-depth knowledge – and I have only read the book one-and-a-half times. Further, it is also a fact that this is a book that is experience-based, so let me quote practical real world examples based on some of the concepts the book mentions… that should convince the reader to procure a copy. 
Hence, while I usually try to start my book reviews with lines or paragraphs from the book that draw in the reader and make him or her yearn for the book; however, I am starting this review with a youtube video of a Marathi song sung by Salil Kulkarni and composed by Sandeep Khare and Salil Kulkarni. This song features the lament of a young father who is unable to give his daughter any time,  is unable to be a part of her daily life,  due to work pressures… 

Damalelya Babachi hi Kahani

komejun nijaleli ek pari rani,

utaralele tond dola sutalele pani ||2||

rojchech aahe sare kahi aaj nahi

mafi kashi magu pori mala tond nahi

zopetach gheto tula aaj mi kushita

nijatach tari pan yeshila khushita

sangayachi aahe majha sanulya phula

damalelya babachi hi kahani tula …

Translation: A sweet sleeping child, face strewn with tears, lies sleeping on the bed; this is a daily affair – how do I say sorry to you, my daughter? This is not something new, it is a daily affair… I always see you sleeping, and take you in my arms in with you in your slumber… how do I explain to you, my child, the story of your overworked and dog-tired Dad? 

Offisat ushira mi asato basun

bhandavale doke gele kamat budun

taas taas jato khaal mane ne nighun

ek ek diva jato haluch vijun

ashaveli kai sangu kai kai vate

athava sobat pani dolyatun date

Translation: Whenever I stay late in the office, my head swimming with the pressure of my daily chores, the hours passing by at a terrifying speed – with me unable to ever raise my head from my desk… how do I explain to you, my daughter, that at such times, tears clog up my eyes whenever the memory of your tearful face swims before my eyes? 
The above is the hard reality of life; with its work pressures, disturbed work-life balance and lack of quality time for family. The modern work-place, the professional work-place, with its KRA-driven work ethics, and the penchant to regard human beings as resources, leaves little scope for the emotional and personal side of employees. “Emotions dont play a role in business” is a commonly stated sentence (phrase?) in business. Sounds fine, when viewed impersonally. But consider that the “resource” involved is a human being – and human beings have emotions, feelings, desires and tolerance levels. By dehumanising the entire process, the focus on the KRAs has been achieved  is the common business approach in all organisations. But do take a look at the song above; just how productive an asset is the above employee going to be? His mind is at home, with his child, who complains ” I never see you, I never play with you etc etc?” If you think this a far-fetched, read this article below: 
The scenario of the employee as a human being and not as a resource is one of the first chapters in the book – and most of us, with business or professional experience has either experienced this first-hand – or have seen it up close and personal. Job performance is a function as much of KRAs and targets and goals as it is a function of the individual human being who is responsible for setting the strategies and executing the tactical plans. The moment you look at it from this perspective, a whole new business paradigm unfurls in front of view. And at least a few of the top successful people do realise the virtues hidden in this approach. 
I recall an interchange with my boss a few months ago. He called me up to set up a team meeting. Then he said – dont worry. No plans – just an open discussion. I just wanted to check how much your teams believes in our product, how much they themselves trust and like our product. This is another concept that the book introduces – one that is not touched by contemporary western management science – but it works wonders in the field – simply because an employee who believes in the value and quality of the product of his company will be far more convincing in his customer (whether internal or external) meetings, will more readily recall details and will be more effective as a result. 
The book talks about to vision and mission statements of the organisation… and makes the solid point through a powerful diagram which features an employee hard at work, focussing on his KRAs… but in the thought balloon, he is shown as thinking “whose vision? Whose targets?”. So true, and so spot-on. Vision statements are in reality just phrases adorning corporate – and at the most – hub offices; on-ground reality has little relation to, or at best little focus on the vision statements, company goals, targets, etc. It is all about my vision, my targets etc… little effort is made to communicate and align the employees with the organisational objectives, to understand individual needs and motivators and align them towards a greater common goal. The net result is that frequently, the larger loftier vision or organisational goal gets lost in the race to achieve personal targets – which is quite often at the cost of long-term sustainability for the organisation. 
One of the most powerful parts of the book is the one which concentrates on the individual, and how to understand each employee, and the need for getting to know the drivers of each employee. In my own team, I have three people who are poles apart; their motivators are varied. One is driven by money and the will to succeed after a fall; another is just biding time as he is assured of a good job in the government. I cannot drive both by the same logic; as a leader, I need to understand the person – not the resource; the human, not the object on an excel sheet that contributes to my own excel sheet of performance! 
I could go on and on ; but this is a review – not a sermon. My objective above is to kindle the thought processes of the readers of this review. The above practical learnings and examples should make the content approach of the book clear. The most interesting aspect is that this is not done in the form of a boring classroom lecture, but through learnings from our scriptures – The Vedas, The Upanishads, The Ramayan, The Mahabharat etc. Allegorical stories and the teaching method adopted; each story is short, fun to read and highly interesting – encapsulated at the end is the short business lesson in the form of diagrams and business examples. The writing is simple, the language is very easy to understand and the pace is almost frenetic; it is a page-turner, It looks at the individual, as I have shown above; it looks at decision making skills, It looks at change – both calm change as well as sudden violent change; It looks at the organisation as an organism – in short, it looks at the entire spectrum of business activities. The book moves smoothly from the broad vision statement of the company to its internal organisation and to the individual in a smooth flow. 
All along, it leaves insights and deep thought provoking germinating ideas in your mind; for example, the segment on the leadership styles and qualities is worth a book unto itself, so powerfully phrased is the presentation. But most importantly, the key message is the importance  of the individual as a human being – not as a resource; understanding him / her – drivers, motivators and how these interplay with the larger corporate scenario; how his/her decisions impact the scene; how differing roles are played by various players in the world – the person who makes decisions, the follower, the leader etc. Read this book for this alone; to me, this has been the most powerful learning. 
In closing, I would like to quote from the above song again, which will serve to highlight that the employee is a human being, and not a machine…

asa kasa baba dev lekarala deto

lavakar jato ani ushirani yeto

balpan gele tujhe guj nisatun

ure kai tujha majha onjhali madhun

jari yete othi tujha majhasathi hase

najaret tujha kahi anolkhi dise

tujha jagatun baba harvel ka ga?

mothepani baba tula athavel ka ga? ||2||

sasurala jata jata umbarathya madhe

babasathi yeil ka pani dolyamadhe?….

Translation: What kind of a father has God given you? Goes early, comes late?  Your childhood passed without Dad being a part of it; Will Dad be a part of your later life? Will you remember me when I am old? Will you cry for your Dad, for missing him as a part of your life when you stand at the threshold of our house on your wedding day, as you leave forever to your Husband’s house? 

Human Beings arent resources on an excel sheet – they have feelings, pressures, stresses, memories, ties, relations, fears, desires… something western management concepts totally ignore…

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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