Review: Cut the Crap & Jargon by Shradha Sharma and TN Hari

A book on cutting jargon has much pontification but little hands-on wisdom

books Updated: Feb 16, 2018 19:20 IST
Sujoy Gupta
Sujoy Gupta
Hindustan Times
leadership,start-ups,monkeys
Monkeying around.(Kamal Kishore/PTI)

The challenge of the hour for contemporary Indian business writers is to match promise with performance. Some reckon that a quick way to articulate promise is to use bold, even brazen, titles and subtitles just as authors Sharma and Hari have done. Competitive jostling for market space is rough enough for even true-blue conservative publishers to go with the flow.

Compromises are inevitable. A ‘book’ rather than a ‘volume’ has better chance of being picked by an intrigued browser when a colourful snappy cover emblazoned with savvy title catches her eye. Production shortcomings don’t hinder her impulsive purchase decision. In a life of helter- skelter she doesn’t notice them. Sale is registered notwithstanding undesirable features like cramming as many as 30 chapters of approximately 125,000 words into 300 pages. Page layout artwork guys did so using for typeset the obscure font Aldine 401 BT created by Moscow based designer Isabella Chaeva in 2008. Frankly, the congested print format makes for strenuous reading.

The authors probably weren’t consulted about the font so I’ll let it pass. Their fault, though, lies in failure to write a manuscript where crap and jargon have been well and truly scrapped. Oddly, brief pedigreed endorsements don’t warn potential readers that the book is full of pointless advice.

Here’s a gem titled Manage Monkeys: Monkey management is about consciously or unconsciously taking ownership/commitment/accountability for something that someone else is responsible for. Consciously, and more often unconsciously, we pass on monkeys every day and create confusion when we should have been striving for quality. This confusion is one of the biggest derailers in a start-up! Develop the habit of avoiding monkeys (passing or receiving). Establish clarity on ownership and accountability.

It’s plain and simple gobbledygook.

Now here comes advice on the important question, How Important Is It to Find the Right People? The reason this question is important is because most such questions tend to have an affirmative response without a deeper understanding of what it means to say, ‘Yes it’s very important!’ It is extremely important to hire the right people for all key roles. It is easier said than done and calls for conviction that the right person in a job really makes a difference. It calls for willingness and spine to take some tough calls when the majority is in favour of hiring a candidate who you feel is a wrong choice.

Naturally, leadership issues are covered in the book’s 30 chapters. These questions are asked and authors’ answers follow. How should start-ups forge leaders? What is a good leadership framework for start-ups? Are there some universal competencies that leaders in start-ups need to demonstrate?

People in start-ups are starved for bandwidth and time. Putting them through traditional development programmes, like the way large and mature companies do, simply won’t work. Therefore the fundamental design feature of a leadership model for a start-up should involve building leadership capability on the job. ... Leaders are forged through tough experiences. Leaders are shaped by other leaders. This is true in companies as much as in real life. Some situations make men out of boys or women out of girls. Life presents these situations to individuals mostly by accident, and when presented with these situations, individuals often curse their misfortune. However after going through these successfully they figure out that they are much stronger after the experience and better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future.

Read more: Review: A Biography of Innovations by R Gopalakrishnan

There’s pontification and waffle, no hands-on wisdom enriched with firsthand quotes from start-uppers who have battled from trenches to lead or fail.

The very last paragraph on page 310 is pure comedy. “We do not claim this era is any different when it comes to the dynamism in the start-up ecosystem. We feel the start-up world is a different place. You would either love it or hate it. We loved it and wanted to share our experience in helping you make a success of your start-up journey. We made a lot of mistakes – we do not want anyone else to make those same mistakes. ... If there is even one lesson that an entrepreneur can relate to, and have an ‘aha’ moment, we would have met our objective. We hope you enjoyed reading this book!”

I refrain from answering rudely.

Sujoy Gupta is a business historian and corporate biographer.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 19:20 IST