Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Review: Business Doctors By Sameer Kamat

Imagine being a business consultant for the Mafia. If that is not enough, imagine analyzing gambling, drugs and porn for the business processes they follow and providing an approach for re-engineering them. Sounds crazy right? It did to the Consultant in me when I first read the blurb on Sameer Kamat’s latest book “Business Doctors”. How could it be I wondered, stepping away from the regular corporate world and applying those very management fundas to the underworld? Wild.  Exactly how the Author defines it to be.

Mafia Boss Stephen Woody, owner of WFB a 'family business' is grappling with the losses when his trophy wife Angie suggests he hire professional help to rectify his problem and correct his losses. With no other plausible solution at hand, Woody hires an Ivy League educated management consultant Michael Schneider to analyze his businesses that spread across gambling, killings, drug and porn to figure out what is causing their steady decline. High on muscle but relatively weak when it comes to managing businesses, Woody and his team think of Michael and Martin his associate as Business Doctors – folks who will set everything right for their ailing company.

I was looking forward to the ride, wondering how the Author would bring together the two worlds of Consulting and Mafia. Expecting a straight dive into the bellies of the underworld, I was quite taken aback when the book began with the escape of a convict Chang. The start caught me unaware and intrigued me on what was in store next. Keeping the suspense going with that string hanging in mid air, the story then moved on to Woody and Michael, from there began the tale of how management consulting goes on a wild, hair raising ride. As the ‘Business Doctors’ go about analyzing the trade and brain storming over ‘MECE’ principles and Issue Trees, the Author ties the prison escapes, the mafia and the consulting jargon all together to weave a meaningful story and flow.

While the book does not keep you glued to your couch, it sure is an entertaining experience. Especially for readers like me who hail from Consulting, the Author ensures we have our fair share of sniggers and guffaws as Michael puts together MECE principles and the 'discovery' and 'solutioning' phases for the mafia world.  The way Michael goes about gathering background information of the ‘Industry’ WFB operates in and the ‘deck’ they put together on their logos and understanding of the business will esp. make readers from a consulting background break into smiles. Be it the industry research  they start on as soon as they get the WFB lead or the shock that Martin gets when he realizes that their precious ‘decks’ are looked down upon in the ‘Dungeon’ (WFB’s ‘conference’ room), the Author has defined a delightful side to the way things are dealt with in Consulting.

The Management Consulting lingo is spread in generous doses across the book and reflects the experience the Author brings from his professional background. What he does show with this piece is that Management Consulting can work with just about any business using the same concepts, the same jargon and the same gyan. The extent of knowledge he brings in of the western underworld, the processes involved in video production, gambling and drugs suffices for the book and the lighter tone that the story line has throughout. His ability to show how power and money triumphs be it in consulting or mafia with implicit messages reflects clearly through the book.

While I found the play of consulting jargon fun and entertaining, I also realized that it could get a tad bit boring for those who do not come from the background. Also, on one hand the story develops at a quick pace but on the other it leaves behind a few grey areas which you feel could have been dealt better with. Here are a few examples-
  •  The readiness with which Michael agrees to take on Woody’s assignment is not clearly explained. While the slow down in his business is apparent, the shift from the shock on knowing what Woody’s business truly is to taking up the project is extremely quick without any room given for reasoning out the long term implications of working on such an assignment.
  •  The sudden absence of Martin once the initial study phase ends stands out like a sore thumb. Right from the start Martin works with Michael on the assignment and is also involved in the initial phase when Woody approaches them with follow on work. However without any rhyme or reason he suddenly disappears from the scene, leaving a small gaping hole in the characterization of the plot
  •  While a good job is done of tying the prison escapes to the main story, the pace the Author had managed so well through the story, slows down drastically with the ‘boot camps’ that the escaped convicts go through.

From a publishing standpoint, the text formatting could have been more optimized with appropriate breaks and paragraphs being injected, this does put you off track but the font size and conversational tone of the book makes it easier on the eye.

Overall, humour that flows easily from the Author’s pen at the right places and an easy to read writing style is what works in this book and makes it worth a read. I would recommend this book for an enjoyable read on a lazy Sunday afternoon esp. for all those Consultants out there who mutter curses under their breath and roll their eyes each time they hear the words ‘deck’, ‘value stream mapping’, ‘value chain’ and the likes. This is a book that will make you appreciate your field in a lighter vein.


Author Bio: Sameer Kamat is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball and Booksoarus. His first book, Beyond The MBA Hypepublished by HarperCollins, is currently in the third reprint. Business Doctors -Management Consulting Gone Wild is his second book.

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20 comments:

  1. This book took me back to my MBA days... it was like a refresher course in Management. Agree with you, about Martin... he simply vanished after a while and the boot camp part dragged quite a bit. And yes the absence of paragraph breaks was uncomfortable. But, overall an enjoyable read.

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    1. Absolutely.. thats why I feel it will be a fun read for folks like us :) looks like I am not the only one who felt Martin's absence..

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  2. Nice review, the author got in touch with me over Twitter and has asked me to read and review the book. And based on your review it seems like a nice fun read without straining the brains too much :)

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    1. Yup and I think you esp. will enjoy the 'Consulting' bit as much as I did :P Its amazing how all Consultants make decks no? The logos, the 'Understanding'.. hehehe it was fun reading all of that. :)

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  3. Hmm - Enjoyable read indeed - and a mere management grad without exposure to the exalted atmosphere of consulting also found it fun :)

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    1. hehehe true.. I guess the gyan story works across for MBA grads :P

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  4. I would not mind being one for the GANG :) oh what fun it would be ..

    lovely review
    Bikram

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    1. Hehehe, maybe I wouldnt mind taking up such an assignment either ;)

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  5. That was well done, Seeta. I have read and reviewed the book too so I say this with all my heart (and experience!) :D

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    1. Thanks Sakshi! I need to hop over and read your review now :)

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  6. I haven't read the book but your review sure makes the book seem interesting. Will an MBA with no consulting experience like me enjoy it too?

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    1. Oh yes.. after all I think all of us MBAs do the same thing whichever Industry we might be in... go around with our fundas and gyan :)

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  7. The book sounds interesting. I am not from the consulting background but yeah I have done my MBA so this should interest me !! Looking forward to reading this one soon :)

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    1. Oh absolutely even an MBA will enjoy it :)

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  8. Let us see if I get to pick it up. Your review has left me undecided :D

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  9. You have made the book sound really interesting , Good JOb !
    http://www.ananyatales.com/

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  10. Looks like a great read...makes me interested:)

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  11. Our thought waves are almost similar on this.. :-) ... liked the way you've explained the things here Seeta... :-)

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  12. Great write-up! Writing is a talent, and it must not be wasted. As with everything that we had been entrusted, we should let it grow and share it with the world.>self directed education

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