For nearly seven decades, I have been reading books on various subjects as a habit. In terms of clarity, brevity and lucidness, two books rank highest in my list – Buddhism in a Nutshell by Ven. Naradha and Kalamanakarana and Muleekanga – by Prof. Hema Wijewardene written in Sinhala. Both changed my life for the [...]


How to solve people-centred problems


For nearly seven decades, I have been reading books on various subjects as a habit. In terms of clarity, brevity and lucidness, two books rank highest in my list – Buddhism in a Nutshell by Ven. Naradha and Kalamanakarana and Muleekanga – by Prof. Hema Wijewardene written in Sinhala. Both changed my life for the better in terms of my personal spirituality and my approach to work.

I had the privilege to go through the manuscript of “Business Oriented People Management’ written by Attorney-at-Law and former Director-General of the Employers Federation of Ceylon, Franklyn Amerasinghe. I can say without any reservation that each chapter of this book was a delight to read. Having been away from organisational human resources for a few years, this was an opportunity for me to update my knowledge of people management in modern times.

The author has used his vast experience in business, dealing with trade unions and government ministries relating to labour and regulation, to show how challenges can be approached and managed in practical ways. His bold and conceptual thinking and ability to translate those ideas in simple ways to the reader is highly commendable.

I will certainly add this to my list of favourite self-help reads and recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their knowledge on issues and people management.

I hope this book will be made available in Sinhala and Tamil for the benefit of non-English speaking professionals who work in Human Resource Management in Sri Lanka.

I have also had a direct relationship with the author for many years, on business as well as on my own professional life and learnt a lot from his guidance and advice. He has also encouraged me to do research and be innovative in my thinking. He can get you to ‘zoom out’ and think out-of-the-box. He has the rare ability to combine business and legal concepts with his own successes and setbacks in life, which is very inspiring.

I see this book as a guide to understanding the discipline one would need to manage people effectively. The topics it covers are relatable to all industry sectors, so I recommend this book to anyone working in management.

For those in politics, this book can help them make better, more proactive decisions in the governance of a nation, by looking at national challenges from a commercial point of view.

A few important things to note:

The chapters are not structured in typical academic style. Instead, the author uses the chapter layouts to highlight issues that are important and relatable to the present time so they can be used as a quick reference guide to problem-solving.

The introductory chapters cover some key historical facts and explain the evolution of legal concepts and management practices. It then goes on to discuss objective setting and individual performance management for teams which are the most crucial steps when it comes to managing people. The distinction between Industrial Relationships and Employee Relationships is also clearly differentiated at the outset.

One of the notable things in the book is how it brings crisis situations to the forefront. For instance, it uses the current Coronavirus pandemic as an example to show that even though it is not the fault of ‘a single person’ in the organisation, how it can create vulnerabilities and challenge internal employee procedures and practices that have been working for years – thus creating management issues. It certainly gives ample food for thought on how one should approach such problems in one’s workplace.

The use of Senage Systematic Technology as a case study to discuss organisational performance vs. individual performance is a great way to show modern people managers how to incorporate theoretical concepts to everyday work life.

One of the other most timely topics the book covers is the practice of Working from Home that became the norm during the pandemic. The challenges and opportunities it has brought are immense, especially as it was an organic shift to everyday work life that people were forced to get used to. Essentially the working from home scenario is very similar to a crisis situation for any company who had never experienced it before.

Another invaluable discussion the book brings to the forefront is on Human Capital Management (HCM). The art of balancing workforce acquisition, workforce management and workforce optimisation is not easy and understanding how it can be approached in a way that adds value to an organisation is a good skill to have for any manager.

The book also captures three trends that are very current in today’s context. They are Talent Acquisition, Planning for Business Risks and the Impact of Globalisation of local Industrial Relations and Human Resources. I found these discussions both profound and thought-provoking.

One of the author’s greatest traits is his ability to be an effective and empathetic communicator and negotiator. He shows that, at times, effective listening can solve more problems than talking, which is a skill that most people lack. The chapters on Communication, Negotiation and Leadership truly reflects the author’s confidence in these subjects.

There is a saying in Sinhala, ‘bokken-ma kiyana adahas’, meaning ‘these ideas come directly from my gut’. I believe that this is precisely how the author has delivered his thoughts in this book. His sincere but confident articulation of ideas and how he relates them to his career and professional success is a great way to learn.

This book was a great read for me for two reasons. Not only was I able to refresh my own knowledge, but I was also able to lean on contributions made by other international experts in the field. Some of the notable mentions were:

Interest-based Problem-Solving Harvard Negotiating Model, The distinction between Profit Sharing and Gain Sharing, Inoue’s writing on Gain Sharing systems in Japan, Warren Bennin’s statements on Leadership, Greenleaf’s concept of ‘Servant Leadership’, Daniel Yankelovich’s point of view on “Relational Leadership” as against typical top-down hierarchical linkage and the importance of the “Social Dialogue” as suggested by the ILO.

I sincerely hope that this book will make a positive change to anyone in Sri Lanka who manages people.

(The reviewer is  a Past  President CIPM)

Book Facts
Business Oriented People Management-  by Franklyn Amerasinghe

Reviewed by Ranjith Cabral

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.