17 October 2012

Some Hits Some Misses by Prasanta Choudhury

The mind should dominate the ego

I know the author of this book as a person of few but well-chosen words; the same can be said of this book. Prasanta Choudhury retired from corporate life in 2002 as President of Formica India.
Some Hits Some Misses contains anecdotes from his working life and they cover offbeat incidents, personal insights into human relations from a management perspective, a close-up view of the Indian manufacturing industry in its most difficult phase, and others. It was interesting to note Prasanta’s experience of how common sense fares in a hierarchical establishment.
I found the book very well written – charming, in fact – and carrying important messages not just for managers but all who enjoy life and want to live better. What I liked best was the last section, in which Prasanta goes back to work after his retirement and experiences work life outside the glamour of the corporate world – but also learns a set of ‘today’ skills out of the reach of many of his contemporaries. 
One of the things I did not like was the periodic textbook-like discourses on management. I somehow don’t think it is in Prasanta’s nature to preach; for some reason I believe that he thinks (like I do) that the best lessons come upon one when in a relaxed and receptive frame of mind, such as while listening to a story. Prasanta’s stories have their lessons subtly woven into them and I found the commentary superfluous.
When I asked him about this he said that he had been told that early drafts of the book were too autobiographical and that he had rewritten it with the text-bookish material. He also told me that he had removed full chapters which were autobiographical.
I felt really sorry to hear that, as India gears itself to become one of the world’s most productive manufacturing nations, market demands still foster the creation of masses of rote-learning clones. The true managers, of course, will be the ones who will seek out the autobiographical stories. They are the ones who understand their value, because they have the maturity to absorb the wisdom and insights that can be gathered from someone like Prasanta Choudhury.
Even more than its management lessons, this book’s value to me is as a first-person record of the early days of manufacturing in India. To have mentioned the year in which each incident took place would have increased that value and I felt sorry it wasn’t done.