Friday, June 19, 2009

Process Consulting

Author: Alan Weiss
Published: 2002
Publisher: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer

This book should be a compulsory reading for anybody who wants to get into the area process consulting - internal or external.
In 10 easy to read well organized chapters the author tells you how to work effectively with clients to launch, implement, and conclude successful consulting projects.
And it is not at all a theoretical stuff, but a very commonsense approach which the author had effectively implemented in his consulting projects for his clients which included Hewlett-Packard, GE, Merill Lynch.
I have been a fairly successful internal process consultant for the last 12 years in the organizations I have worked for.
However I very much wish that I had come across this book much earlier.
That would have really improved my effectiveness and efficiency.
The book provides powerful techniques for :
- creating initial conditions for a successful consulting intervention
- putting in place the strategy and tactics needed to gather intelligence
- coaching key people and establishing the rules of engagement
- reinforcing change and overcoming resistance
- creating dynamic training programs that can yield outright results for the client
- focusing on the transition from strategy formulation to strategy implementation
- improving leadership that is driven by values and measured by results
These techniques are supported by 40 short case studies most of them based on author's personal experiences, several useful checklists and nearly hundred hot tips (called Ultimata) spread across the ten chapters.
One thing I liked about the case studies is that the author has described his failures also.
This lends a human touch to this book.
How many of us readily admit our mistakes ?
The book is so well laid out that you can randomly open any page and you will come across very useful hot tip or a case study or a checklist.
One glance at the table of contents is by itself an education on how effective consulting.
Seeing is believing.
Browse through the Table of Contents and the Chapter 1 - Conditions for a Successful Intervention at the publisher's website.
Also visit the author Alan Weiss's company website - The Summit Consulting Group for more information and goodies.
I am glad that I came across this book in the British Library and borrowed it.
I would like to have a copy of my own, but it is rather expensive ($48!). Hopefully waiting for a low-priced edition or a second-hand sale !

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sepia Leaves

Author: Amandeep Sandhu
Published: 2008
Publisher: Rupa & Co.
Amazon Link : Click Here

A true account of author's childhood days in Rourkela, though it is classified as fiction, the reason being as the author says in his blog "the time line of the story is not entirely real and I merged some characters while, in other places, I created more than one character from one person".

The protagonist Appu's mother is suffering from schizophrenia and is not in a position to provide proper motherly care to him . Due to her illness her behavior is abnormal most of the time and generally very violent towards her husband i.e. Appu's father.

The book is a very moving account of how the father and son handle this problem in a very stoic manner with a great sense of fortitude and calm acceptance of the situation.

The part which touched me most is where Appu distressed at the condition of his mother and the pains he has to endure in his dysfunctional family asks his father "Why has God created misery ?"

The following reply from his father finds a permanent place in Appu's heart and mind. And so it would to sensitive readers and inspire them to face their problems courageously.

"If we believe that God created the world then he did not create happiness for some and misery for others. We all have happiness and misery.....Yes, some people have greater misery, but that is because God wants people to find ways of fighting it. And when they fight it even their happiness is greater. If everything were easy, if it was just nice and happy, if you had not experienced misery, you may not have the capacity to enjoy happiness.
By making life difficult, God is trying to teach you something. In life some people move ahead and some are left behind. The ones who get ahead do not come from easy circumstances, they rise above their difficulties. Their troubles shape them, teach them and push them to rise above others.
I understand that you feel things are unfair for us. That is not the case. There are always worse situations. God is trying to teach us something. We should try and listen...I believe in this. Grow up and you will find your own beliefs. However, see your difficulties as a test to become a stronger person...Beyond that I do not know"

A must read for everyone and especially those who have to deal with cases of schizophrenia in their family.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Palace for the Poor

Published: 2007
Publisher: Ramakrishna Mission Students' Home, Chennai

This book is brought out by Ramakrishna Mission Students' Home, Chennai (endearing called the "Home" by its close associates) on occasion of its centenary celebrations . The 'Home' was established in 1905 Swami Ramakrishnananda, (the direct disciple of the saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa) along with Sri Ramaswamy Iyengar. It was intended to aid the students from poor families by providing food, clothing, shelter and education. The selection criteria for selecting such students being "poorest among the best " .
Subsequently it started several schools and technical institutes and completed its 100 years of illustrious history in 2005.
The book describes the origin and growth of the Home, establishment of educational institutions under its aegis , life sketches and anecdotes about its founders, close associates and some outstanding old students, glimpses of the life of the inmates of the Home. It also deals with its recent developments and its future plans.
This book will be of interest only to a select audience - mainly those who have been associated with the Home in particular and Ramakrishna Mission in general.
But it is a special book for me, since my grandfather Sri C. Ranga Iyengar was the teacher and then later the Headmaster of the Residential High School run by the Home, from mid 1930s (or probably even earlier) till he retired in 1959. His contribution towards Home has been recognized in this book with a two page write up about him along with his photograph. Through this writeup I came to know a couple of incidents which reveals his strange mixture of sterness and love to all boys residing in the Home without any bias or discrimination. I was not aware of these facts. Also the photograph of his is from his younger days which I had never seen, having always known him as an old man past his seventies.
My father and my uncle were also Old Boys of the Home and this book gave me some idea about the lives they would have lead when they were the inmates of the Home

Monday, June 8, 2009

Inventors Who Revolutionised Our Lives

Author: K.V. Gopalakrishnan
Published: 1999
Publisher: National Book Trust, India

The author of this book is a well respected Professor of Mechanical Engineering who during his tenure of almost 40 years in IIT Madras taught advanced topics on internal combustion engines (I was privileged to be his student !), guided several research projects, and published several research papers .
Yet coming from such a highly technical and academic person, is this delightful little book on inventions and inventors which is very simple to read and can be easily understood by a layman.

The book is divided into two parts.
Part A called The Art and Science of Invention, discusses the impact of science and technology in our lives, how an inventor is different from a scientist, what makes an inventor tick and the process of invention.
Part B called the Great Inventors has short life sketches of twenty inventors, spanning over two centuries (18th to 20th) whose inventions/discoveries are taken for granted today.

The inventors covered are - James Watt, Eli Whitney, Michael Faraday, Samuel Morse, Charles Babbage, Henry Bessemer, Alfred Nobel, Thomas Alva Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, Rudolf Diesel, The Wright Brothers, Guglielmo Marconi, Robert Goddard, Igor Sikorsky, Robert Watson-Watt, Chester Carlson, Sir Frank Whittle, Edwin Land, Robert Noyce.

I came to know about several interesting little known facts about these inventors.

These life sketches bring out very clearly the tenacity of purpose, capacity of hard work, and supreme self-confidence these inventors exhibited to translate their ideas into reality.

A very motivating read for everyone especially for the young budding inventors.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Raga Mala

Author: Ravi Shankar
Published: 1999
Publisher: Element Books Ltd.

This is an autobiography of the world-renowned sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, written on the occasion of his 75th birthday (now he is 89).
A very fascinating and almost a complete account of his life - his childhood, his teens as a member of his brother Uday Shankar's dance troupe, his learning sitar from his guru Ustad Allaudin Khan, his painstaking efforts to introduce and popularize Indian Classical Music in the West, his l collaborations with Western musicians of several genres Pop (Beetles, especially George Harrison who learnt Sitar from him), Jazz (John Coltrane, who named his son as Ravi after him) and Classical (Lord Yehudi Menuhin, who has written the Afterword for this book), his affairs with several women finally culminating in his marriage to Sukanya when he was in late sixties , his daughter Anoushka.
There are lot of sepia toned photographs (and some colored photos too) of excellent quality showing glimpses from various phases in his life.
Overall a very beautifully produced book, edited and introduced by George Harrison of Beetles fame.
A must read for lovers of Indian classical music.