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Published in Nov-Dec 2017

Review: Emerging Dynamics of Management by Sirajuddin Aziz

Seven sections and 122 chapters (494 pages) filled with wisdom, insight and useful tips. But where, as the title of the book claims, are the ‘Emerging Dynamics of Management?’

The impressive book launch had a star-studded line-up of speakers extolling the virtues of this book at an event recently and I looked forward to getting a copy for myself. The world of politics, business and by extension, management (and leadership) are undergoing profound changes and I thought to benefit from the contents. Then, I read the foreword and came to know that this is a compendium of articles written by the author over a period of seven years, sharing his reflections on a variety of management topics.

With globalisation, rapid advances in technology, Millennials making an impact, financial crises and the emergence of China as a dominant force, much has changed across the globe. Business schools and management consultancies are striving to keep pace with these changes while those in the seminar and conference business are busy highlighting these changes. The perspectives in this book, based on the author’s vast experience, do not address these scenarios.

The dominant word in these past few years has been ‘disruption’: Nothing seems to be following the traditional models of management and the oft-quoted examples of some of the largest companies not owning any assets themselves (Alibaba, Airbnb and Uber to name a few) have completely changed the way businesses are created and sustained. Employee expectations and how to compensate them have been upended. This is where the emerging dynamics of management lie.

Sirajuddin Aziz, an experienced banker who has worked in senior positions in several countries, has been contributing his thoughts on management in newspaper articles since 2012. One immediately gets the sense of a well-read, evolved and introspective leader sharing his experiences by the wide variety of topics visited – especially ones learned the hard way. During the course of his career, he has worked in China, Hong Kong, Nigeria, the UAE and UK, and recently retired as President and CEO of Habib Metropolitan Bank, Pakistan. Taking time to share these insights must be commended.

An essential part of communications is non-verbal – our body language and that of the other party – that can say almost as much as our words. My favourite chapter here is the one on ‘Silence’, something we do not practice nearly often enough.

It is true that business schools can only ‘introduce’ students to the past and prevailing concepts of management, while the real learning comes on-the-job. The wider and deeper your experiences, the more likely you are to be exposed to situations that require creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills; stuff you only learn by doing. The ‘learning’ individual adds to his quiver of competencies by supplementing work with a wide choice of reading material, keeping the company of erudite individuals, as well as actively seeking new challenges. Aziz has brought those experiences and learnings to a wider audience through this effort.

A walk through the book...

The first section deals with communications, an often- overlooked asset or skill. We don’t give enough attention to what we say (and how we say it), let alone listen attentively to others. An essential part of communications is non-verbal – our body language and that of the other party – that can say almost as much as our words. My favourite chapter here is the one on ‘Silence’, something we do not practice nearly often enough.

Since this book is a collection of articles, the topics do not flow from one to the other in any natural progression.

Next comes Strategy and Organisational Structure, an assortment of 22 chapters that has little to do with the heading. The gamut runs from lethargy, change and flattery to vision, mission and the incompetence of bosses. Power, storytelling and organisational culture also find their way in here.

Don’t get me wrong; each of these are eminently readable and useful. They offer insights to the experienced manager as well as the beginner and should be read with an open mind for best absorption.

The section on ‘Leadership’ offers a look at the perils and pitfalls of those aspiring to, or sitting at the top. The writer shares his insights based on actual experience mixed with deep reading (as evidenced by the quotes and examples from a variety of sources).

The ’business’ of leadership generates several billions of dollars every year via books, advanced-management courses, conferences and seminars. Speakers earn fabulous fees traversing the globe, telling us what we already know. The few chapters here are valuable for throwing a light on places we rarely go.

The book has sections on Personal Development, HR Management, Boardroom and Committees, and a Manager’s Tool Box. Each of these are filled with personal experiences of Aziz over his career in cross-cultural environments.

Management and leadership are essentially about harnessing human potential and behaviour. Human behaviour involves politics and, with organisations becoming more complex, politics also becomes more lethal.

The dynamics of management change are almost like a kaleidoscope, reflecting each shift in the composition of the team or the geographic environment you are operating in. The savvy manager, attuned to his surroundings and able to pick up on subtle nuances, has an advantage over those who come in with their blinkers on. The writer has picked up on these shades with a deft touch, combining experience with scholarship to best effect. I would quibble with the editing effort – it could have been much tighter with attention to punctuation. As we say: “The writer writes and the editor edits.”

Overall, this book has the feel of being the work of a senior mentor, a raconteur and a bon vivant. Aziz has brought an avuncular style to his observations without being prescriptive or patronising.

Emerging Dynamics of Management
By Sirajuddin Aziz
Paramount Books (Pvt) Limited
494 pp. Rs 995

Leon Menezes is an executive coach and a professor-of-practice at the IBA-Karachi.