Sunday, October 24, 2010

Corporate Strategy

Authors:              Rob Dransfield
Published:           2005
Publisher:            Heinemann 
Paperback:         120 pages
Readers in India:

This is a concise, introductory  undergraduate  level textbook on Corporate Strategy in the series Studies in Economics and Business.  It consists of  nine chapters.

Chapter 1 gives a brief outline of the nature of corporate strategy.
Chapter 2 shows how strategies need to be shaped by the past successes of an organization.
Chapter 3 outlines procedures involved in scanning the external environment of the organization to outline key changes in the wider political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental influences as well as in  the competitive environment (PESTLE analysis).
Chapter 4 explains the importance of identifying the internal strengths and weaknesses of an organization and the external threats and opportunities facing the organization in helping to formulate strategies (SWOT analysis).
Chapter 5 outlines the importance of defining the purpose and objectives of the organization. 
Chapter 6 is concerned with identifying a range of generic and competitive strategies for the organization. It examines a range of major types of strategy which are typical of those being pursued by modern organizations.
Chapter 7 highlights ways in which the organization can implement its strategy and ways in which it can then monitor and evaluate ongoing strategies. It shows that, in a dynamic business environment, the strategy that emerges may be different from what was originally planned.
Chapter 8 examines ways in which managers can plan strategic change in an organization and overcome the barriers which exist.
Chapter 9 identifies globalization as a key strategy that is being pursued by many large organizations today - both as a means of expanding their sphere of interests and profits, and as a means of defending against the actions of competitors.
These chapters are followed by 11 short (one-page) case studies  with discussion points  focusing on  key learning points.
A good  short  book (just 120 pages !) to start with for a quick overview of what corporate strategy is all about.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Author:        Stieg Larsson
Translator:   Reg Keeland
Published:   2009
Publisher:   Maclehose Press 
Paperback: 649 pages
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Readers in India

This is the second book in the Millennium Trilogy of which the first book is  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the third is The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. All the three books are translations from Swedish and have been in Amazons' Top 100 Bestseller lists for several months.
A fast paced thriller featuring a rather unconventional heroine, which holds your interest almost till the end.
However hardly any re-read value and definitely not a must read. If you have not read it, you have not missed anything. If you are an avid crime fiction reader, you would have definitely read better books in this genre.
But it is quite a good book for light reading and passing time though. I won't mind reading the other two books in this trilogy, if I come across them, though I have no intention of buying them.
I suggest reading its prequel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo first before you read this book, for this book gives away the twist in the prequel.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beyond the Darkness

Author:     Shirley Du Boulay
Published: 1998
Publisher:  Rider Books
Hardback: 308 pages
Readers in India:

This is a biography of Father Bede Griffiths (1906-1993), a  British Benedectine  monk who assimilated  the tenets of  Indian philosophy , culture, way of worship yet remained true to the Catholic order he belonged to. 
Though he had predecessors in this endeavor like Roberto de Nobili,  Swami Abhishiktananda (Father Henri le Saux), he was perhaps the most well known. He came to India in 1955 and  established Kurusimala Ashram in 1958 along with Father Francis Acharya. Ten years later he was invited  to manage the Saccidananda Ashram (Shantivanam) near Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), by  Swami Abhishiktanananda (its co-founder). Father Bede Griffiths remained for rest of his life in this Ashram and  took it to great spiritual heights.

It is a well written book however it is rather factual and fails to move you and strike a chord. I have read better biographies. But it was effective enough to generate an intent in me to read the books written by Father Bede Griffiths when I come across them , especially his autobiographies - The Golden String and its sequel The Marriage of East and West. I would also like to pay a visit to Saccidananda Ashram (Shantivanam) if I happen to be in the neighbourhood of Trichy.

The following extract from this book based on author's discussion with Brother Martin, who succeeded Father Bede Griffiths in Saccidananda Ashram,  summarizes succintly the four stages in spiritual development of Father Bede Griffiths:

First was Bede's discovery of the love of Christ, so total that it led him to become a Benedictine monk. 
Then, in the 1930s, came a period when he began to discover other religions, though never doubting that, though all religions contains some elements of truth, 'there is only one absolutely true religion...Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and without him no man comes to the Father'.

By 1973, however, he found that this statement needed qualifying: 'Christ is the ultimate fulfilment of all religion, the final and definitive word of God, but the same cannot be said of Christianity. Christianity, as an organized religion seeking to express the mystery of Christ, the divine Word in human terms, suffers from the same defects as other religions.

Two years later he went further, writing: 'I am so tired of the childish pretence that Christianity is the only true religion and must be shown superior to others.' He was moving gradually to the third stage, a conviction that all religions are complementary.

In the early 1980s came a glimmering of the final stage, the idea that there is one reality beyond all, a reality found in all religions. Bede became more and more interested in advaitic experience.

The latest development in his own thought, Bede wrote to Nigel Bruce, was that he had become more and more 'advaitin':
It seems to me that we have ultimately to go beyond all forms of thought - even beyond the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church etc. 
All these belong to the world of 'signs' - manifestations of God in human thought - but God himself, Truth itself, is beyond all forms of thought. 
All meditation should lead into silence, into the world of 'non-duality', when all the differences - and conflicts -in this world are transcended - not that they are simply annulled, but they are taken up into a deep unity of being in which all conflicts are resolved - rather like colours being absorbed into pure white light, which contains all the colours but resolves their differences.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Secret Agent

Author:      Joseph Conrad
Published:  1907
Readers in India:

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In 1894 at Greenwich Park, London, an anarchist called Martial Bourdin was killed  when the explosives he was carrying prematurely detonated. His motives and the potential target of his bombing remained a mystery. It is this incident which inspired the author Joseph Conrad to write this novel which is perhaps one of the first spy novels written in English literature. The author spins out a simple imaginative story behind this bombing and its aftermath.
If you are expecting a plot and suspense on the lines of modern-day thrillers, you will be disappointed. However this book has  brilliant tragi-comic portrayals of  characters and situations in the plot, which are a delight to read if you have a taste for late nineteenth century/early twentieth century English literature. And this comes from a person (Conrad was of  Polish origin.) who did not speak English fluently till he was in twenties.
You can read the plot summary of this novel at