Sunday, February 24, 2013

Veda Vyasa's Executive Summary

Some have the habit of saying "Where is the time?" at least a dozen times in a day.  They have no time for anything.  If you observe them carefully, they are too busy.  Too busy doing nothing most of the time.  Some busy people truly have no time for certain things.  They always manage to find time to do things they want to do.  All of us have no time to do what we are not keen to do.  Time Management is the subject of many training sessions and workshops.  Expert trainers in "Time Management" are themselves found to be poor managers of their own time.  That is quite understandable.  They teach others; not themselves.  As Laurence J Peter mentions in his famous book "Peter's Principle", "They saved others; themselves they could not save".

The real pressure on time is on the housewives or home makers.  Their peak time arrives much before or just before their children leave for school and other members of the family go for work.  If they themselves are also working in some office or establishment, the pressure is even more.  They do not even have time to eat a proper breakfast.  They could be seen eating their breakfast in the buses or vehicles while commuting to office from home.

There is true pressure on time in many work situations.  Persons occupying high positions have to attend to many important things at the same time.  They are required to read, understand, evaluate and act on voluminous reports and proposals and decide in quick time.  Over and above this, meetings eat away most of their time.  In order to remedy such situations and aid in fast decision making, the concept of "Executive Summary" is put in place.  It has become customary to prepare an executive summary, sometimes also called "Management summary", with every report or proposal.  Preparation of such a summary needs skill and experience.  Otherwise, instead of putting things in nutshell, the nut will remain in the shell - the big report.   

An "Executive Summary" is a short document that summarizes a longer report or proposal to enable the reader to understand a large body of material without having to read it in its entirety.  It differs from an "Abstract" often used in academic research, that helps the reader to decide whether or not to read the document.  An executive is condemned to read the  "Executive Summary" and decide on the underlying issue based on it.  Even if the final decision is not to decide or return the file with some queries that aid in postponing the decision.  As one of our former Prime Ministers said, not deciding things is also a decision.  It works many times; issues get solved before a final decision is taken.  Thus rendering decision making redundant.

In my post titled "Learning and Teaching" (Please click on this to read it), I had made a mention of the contributions of Maharishi Veda Vyasa to the cause of universal knowledge.  It may surprise many, but the original author of an Executive Summary is also Veda Vyasa himself!  In fact, a reference to Veda Vyasa's executive summary came up in the Constituent Assembly discussions when the various articles of our constitution were discussed and voted by the Assembly.  The discussions in the Constituent Assembly held on 19th May 1949 was presided over by Dr. Rajendra Prasad.  Those who took part in the debate included illustrious names such as Prof. K T Shah, H V Kamath, Tajamul Hussain, Nazimuddin Ahmad, T T Krishnamachari, K Santhanam, Dr B R Deshmukh and M  Ananthasayanam  Ayyangar.   Dr B R Ambedkar was replying to the debate and intervening as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.  While moving an amendment to Article 80, H V Kamath mentioned about the bulkiness of the draft Constitution and referred to Veda Vyasa.  He mentioned about the famous Veda Vyasa's statement as under:

श्लोकार्धेन प्रवक्ष्यामि यदुक्तं ग्रन्थ कोटिभिः |  परोपकारं पुण्याय पापाय परपीडनम् ||

Shlookaardhena pravakshyaami yaduktam Grantha Kootibhihi
Paroopakaaram Punyaya Paapaaya Parapeedanam!

Vyasa is the author of voluminous literature that includes the four Vedas, eighteen Puranas and many other works.  Someone like the modern day executive went to him and told him that he does not have time to read and understand them.  He wanted Veda Vyasa to summarize all his works in a "Executive Summary".  Veda Vyasa said he would do even better than that.  Why only his works?  He would summarize the writings in millions or billions of books in half a verse.  The executive summary given by him reads thus:

Whatever is done for the benefit of others (meaning the general community) are good deeds (Punya).  Whatever is done to harm others are bad deeds (Paapa).  Simple Executive summary of a billion books!

Executive summary is not an invention of the west.  It is truly an Indian art and science.  Panini's "Shivasutras" sums up entire Grammar in some formulae that can be easily remembered.  Amarakosha or "Naamalingaanushaasana" is a full dictionary that was known to every child by heart.  "Brahma Sutras" summed up the essence of  Indian Philosophy.  These were easy to remember and retrieve.  Come with you wherever you go.  No need to carry the physical books.  No cartage or taxes.  No threat of termites and mice; no fear of a friend borrowing them and never remembering to return!


  1. i appreciate the executive summary idea sir!!

  2. Very n9ice analysis and the essence of simili is adorable indeed.The technic isreally scientific and like Chanakya neeti this should be accepted not only byhindus but also by believers of all faiths

  3. Fabulous post, Appa. Hope Panini graces your blog soon :-)

  4. An excellent way of describing Executive summaries......UR

  5. A excellent way to bring out the importance and effective use of Executive Summary. Real class as usual.

  6. It reninds me the Executive Summaries prepated while submitting proposals to the sanctioning Committee. A thooght provocing analysis indeed.Thanks

  7. In-terms of Executive summery..."IT's Awesome" Sir.

  8. I recall those days when we used to prepare a synopsis for credit proposals under Board sanction.You have enlightened us that the idea
    of Executive summary was originated from Veda Vyasa and Panini maharshi which every indian to be proud of.Despite my busy schedule
    doing nothing,I however find some free time go through your blogs which is very interesting.Your efforts to be appreciated in sourcing the valuable information.You are really great.

  9. Dear keshav ,
    your blogs as usual is always food for interesting analysis and in a world of countless meetings , abundant paper work , and collasal waste of energy of many , executive briefings and summary has become the need of the hour and an important tool for brevity , accuracy and insight.
    prasanna Gopal

  10. You have put a great thing in a simple way for which any layman can understand