Aurora Magazine

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It’s practical, it’s inspirational!

Published in Jul-Aug 2016

Book review of Saad Amanullah Khan's management guidebook 'It's Business, It's Personal'.

Considering there are already so many books on all aspects of management, you have to ask yourself if there is room for one more. In the case of It’s Business, It’s Personal: From Setting a Vision to Delivering it Through Organizational Excellence by Saad Amanullah Khan, the answer is a resounding YES! There is so much to like about it. The range of topics, the useful advice, the wonderful quotes, and the personal experience woven into it are such that the book should become an indispensible handbook for a wide range of professionals. And don’t forget the 42 Vital Tips generously sprinkled throughout!

The rapidly-changing dynamics of the business world mean that companies are constantly striving for survival and often look to new fads and management techniques as ‘magic pills’ that will solve the problem at hand. However, those organisations that have managed to sustain themselves over longer periods have gone beyond the quick-fixes, embedding foundational principles which, in retrospect, seem to be self-evident.

As someone who has been fortunate to have been exposed to the major components of management in several international organisations (and who now gets to teach the same), I find this book encapsulates all the major themes, suitably wrapped with lots of ‘do’s and don’ts’ to help the practitioner along. More importantly, the author infuses his personal passion and enthusiasm for the subject throughout the book and that makes it so much more enjoyable.

Khan has been a major contributor to Pakistan’s corporate scene, not only as a senior executive, first at P&G and then at Gillette, but also as a speaker and writer on management. His regular appearances at conferences, seminars and business schools indicate his keenness to share his learnings with as many people as possible. He currently heads his own consultancy in addition to chairing a number of high-profile endeavours in the non-profit sector. It is this blend of experiences that light up the book.

The book’s format has been sensibly presented as ‘direction-setting’ and ‘organisational excellence’. This helps immensely if one were to be looking for specific help initially and later, if you were in need of a more motivational approach to getting things done.

Which is which and what is what?
Many organisations struggle with their understanding of (and then developing) their mission and vision, and strategies and tactics. Khan not only explains the differences, but goes on to show how it’s done, fully supported by examples from different companies.

The perennial question of which comes first, vision or mission, is duly answered in Vital Tip 3: If an organisation decides to define its vision statement before the mission statement, then one must ask the following questions: What is the purpose behind the vision? Why does the vision exist? The purpose of your company is in fact your mission statement. Ideally, the mission statement should be aligned and agreed upon before defining your vision.

More importantly, the linkages between mission, vision, goal-setting and strategy development are clearly articulated. The examples given can easily be applied to one’s personal life as to corporations and this, for me, is the big bonus in this book. After all, every management tool and technique has been invented by humans for humans.

For mid- to senior-level practitioners, there is a wealth of refreshers and stimulating quotes. Even an academic would find this a useful handbook for classroom use because of the many examples and stories in there.

Speaking of humans, the ‘people’ aspect of management is well and truly highlighted – from values-creation to rewards, from engaging staff to developing them. Unfortunately, too many managers and organisations fail miserably in this regard and then wonder why the results are not forthcoming.

The book credits many contemporary and classic publications for its breadth and in doing so, the reader who may be new to management can benefit from further exploring the texts in full. Among the more prominent ones are Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall (Jim Collins); The Game Changer (A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan); 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Speed of Trust (Stephen Covey); The Secret (Rhonda Byrne) and Who Moved My Cheese? (Spencer Johnson).

A book for everyone?
There are countless professionals across the country who haven’t had exposure to the theories and concepts of management per se and who would benefit greatly from this book. Top of mind are engineers and finance folk who, as a result, fail to see beyond the functional aspects of their roles, thereby missing out on the bigger picture.

For mid- to senior-level practitioners, there is a wealth of refreshers and stimulating quotes. Even an academic would find this a useful handbook for classroom use because of the many examples and stories in there. But at Rs 2,495 a copy, how many takers will there be?

One can ignore the innumerable references to the P&G way of working because it all makes practical sense, but how can we ignore some blatant typos and grammatical errors? For example, in the story on NCR, John Henry Patterson is subsequently referred to as ‘Paterson,’ ‘Patterson,’ and then ‘Peterson.’ Then we fall into the trap most common in our part of the world: putting a question mark at the end of a sentence that starts with ‘Who,’ ‘What,’ ‘How’ or ‘When.’ Such as “Why Values are Vital?” Or, “How a Mission Statement Evolves Over Time?”

Another recurring theme is commencing sentences without the benefit of the definite or indefinite article. It just makes for the appearance of tardiness when the book focuses so much on ‘operational excellence’.

It should be apparent to all but the blind that the only ‘hard’ aspect of management is numbers; everything else is on the ‘soft’ side: mission, vision, strategy, change management, performance management and executional excellence – these are all done by and through people. Yet, even though organisations love to chant the mantra about ‘people are our greatest assets,’ these assets are always shown on the ‘expense’ side. Making this mental shift amongst the leaders is a great way to start your journey to success:

Vital Tip 26: Finding quality people and training them is merely 50% of the work; retaining them and keeping them inspired and motivated is the balance 50%. To achieve this goal, you must identify people who share your values and passion, place them in the right jobs, compensate them competitively, and work towards creating a culture which inspires them to deliver their best every hour and every minute of the day.

The rich blend of practical advice, inspirational stories and quotes in this book should help if you are looking for sustainable, long-term profitable business results.

It’s Business, It’s Personal: From Setting a Vision to Delivering it
Through Organizational Excellence

By Saad Amanullah Khan
Westbow Press
442 pp. Rs 2,495

Leon Menezes is an Executive Coach and a Professor-of-Practice at IBA, Karachi.