Is this Meeting Genuinely Necessary?


A “maybe” response indicates only limited need for the meeting and shows that further thought is required. Only a “yes” is a positive justification for calling a meeting.

 

The same question needs to be asked before attending a meeting. If the meeting is not necessary and you can avoid it, do so. If you have to attend, try to use the time to shorten your workload to compensate for the lost hours.

 

Many managers find it hard to judge if a meeting is needed or superfluous. There are some guidelines:

1.    Is the meeting being called to exchange information or viewpoints?

a.       If the meeting is to discuss viewpoints, it is probably a necessary conference. If the meeting is strictly to distribute information, the meeting is probably unnecessary. Meetings are most effective when used to find solutions or resolutions to conflicts. A meeting held for the sole purpose of imparting information had better have some pretty spectacular revelations. This in all likelihood should be classed as an inspirational conference, because important news is seldom passed along without editorializing or explanations. Inspirational meetings are difficult to conduct, because they are based on emotion, but there are times when the troops need boosting or, conversely, deflating.

b.      Training meetings appear to be an exception to the don’t-meet-to-exchange-information concept. They are not. Distributing information in advance allows the meeting to be used for developing concepts and testing individual understanding. This is a better use of everyone’s time. This is not to downplay the importance of instructional sessions. It is just to set this category of communications apart from other meetings.

c.       Information, facts, figures, sales data, market intelligence, production numbers, personnel reviews, and more, can be disseminated more effectively by memo than meeting. Chances are, the memo is going to be written anyway passed out at the meeting. Distributing a memo is okay if there is other business on hand, but calling a meeting solely as a means of handing paper to other managers is inappropriate.

d.      Meetings are at their best when used to generate expressions of viewpoints or concepts, or to develop a policy.

e.       Meetings are at their worst when used to check individual progress on various projects. There are few more mind-dulling experiences than to sit at a conference table and hear about the status of tasks that are not even remotely connected with yours. These sections often turn into excuse contests with rambling dissertations on the reasons behind delays or problems.

f.        Meetings are generally not an efficient way to dispense information. If this is the primary reason for the gathering, then rethink the need for convening.

2.    Can one-on-one conversations or even one-on-two conversations accomplish what needs to be done? Or is a larger group necessary?

a.       There’s a difference between a meeting and a conversation between two or three people. A conversation is relaxed, informal, and rarely has the time constraints posed by a meeting. Those present sense the difference.

b.      Decisions are rarely made in conversations. In fact, some managers and executives become agitated when two or three members of a committee converse and come to a consensus without the others present. This nervousness is not assuaged by a follow-up memo which details the conversation or even by the fact that the decision may be nothing more than a unified front, in no way binding upon the group.

c.       If conversation will suffice to avoid another meeting, then have the talk. Inform the other committee members or interested parties. Those smart enough to advance in management will welcome one less meeting on their schedule.

3.    Is this meeting being called because someone or some group doesn’t have enough to do? It happens all the time. Workloads in an organization can be unbalanced. This week, Production has more than it can handle, while Sales is costing. One way to fill the day for Sales is to call a meeting. This is more common than anyone dares admit.

4.    Is the agenda for the called-meeting vague? Or worse, is there no agenda at all?

a.       As a basic rule of meeting skill, do not go to a meeting where there is no agenda. If you have to attend, go prepared for the worst.

b.      If a manager cannot express on paper what the meeting is about, there probably shouldn’t be a meeting at all.

c.       If you are asked to a meeting and no agenda is given to you in advance, find the person who called the meeting and ask for one. If it is verbal, take notes.

d.      Many times, the person discovers he or she has vague ideas about why the meeting is needed. This experience can benefit both of you.

5.    Is there any reason to meet other than the fact that your group has a set, regular, once-a-week mandatory meeting? Top management often wants certain employees to get together each and every week, to discuss items of importance, or to match timing, balance workloads, and do ongoing, necessary house-keeping.

a.       After a few sessions, these meetings fall into a routine and small talk dominates.

b.      The day before, the manager should do a little checking. Is there actually a need to convene? Could a more limited gathering accomplish the same thing? Would a memo suffice? Could matters be handled by a phone call? If the answer is yes, skip the meeting.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Being Accessible to Employees


One of your primary management responsibilities is to make yourself available to employees to answer their questions and address their concerns. When the press of daily activities tends to makes you unavailable:

  • Update your calendar regularly. Give your staff access to your calendar so they can arrange a time to meet with you.
  • Coordinate your schedule with your secretary and set up times when you will check in at the office, either by phone or in person. Let your staff know that your secretary has this information.
  • Set up regular meetings to answer employees’ questions and to get the information that will keep you abreast of their work.
  • Take time to contact employees periodically, particularly those you do not see daily. These need not be formal meetings. Taking time to talk with people, even informally, conveys a nonverbal message of support. Also, your employees will be less likely to view you as an “absentee manager.”

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Organizational Compassion


Although little, if anything can be done to avoid certain disasters, fortunately, there is something that leaders and managers can do to help everyone involved return to business as usual. Specifically, company officials should create an environment in which people can express their emotions in which they can do something to alleviate their own and others’ suffering. In other words, they should express organizational compassion.

 

To be as compassionate as possible, organizational officials should pay attention to the four dimensions: greater scope, more generous scale, more rapid speed, and greater specialization of response are indications of an organization’ compassion competence. This is important insofar as it helps employees heal emotionally when times are tough. For example, an organization would show compassion when it (1) treats an ill employee by doing lots of things to help, such as sending flowers, delivering meals, providing financial support, helping with child care, and so on (broad scope); (2) does these things generously, such as providing the amount of help needed as opposed to only limited amounts (extensive scale); (3) acts quickly, such as by leaping into action to provide help right away (rapid speed); and (4) specializes its action, such as by catering to the unique needs of this particular sick individual instead of offering a fixed, standard package of benefits (greater specialization).

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Heroes and Heroines


Heroes and heroines transmit culture by personifying its corporate values. Leaders viewed in this way reinforce the basic values of an organization’s culture by providing role models, symbolizing their organization to the outside world, preserving the organization’s special qualities, setting a standard of performance, motivating employees, and making success attainable and human. Managers who create heroes or heroines foster a set of corporate values that may stabilize the current organization or expedite change.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Developing the Channel Design


Channel design refers to those decisions involving the development of new marketing channels where none existed before, or to the modification of existing channels. Channel design is an important decision as the channel is a means through which the firms can find new prospects, communicate to customers, and physically deliver the product. Of all the marketing decisions, the ones regarding distribution (channel) are the most far-reaching. It can revamp a promotional program, modify its product line. But once a company sets up its distribution channels, it generally find changing them to be difficult. Channel design, therefore, does not refer to channel structures that have simply evolved, it refers only to those where the management has taken an active role in the development of the channel.

 

Specifically, the channel design decision includes:

1.    the number of channels to employ;

2.    the number of levels to be included in each channel;

3.    the type of intermediaries to employ; and

4.    the number of channel intermediaries at each level.

 

The selection of the best channel (channel design decision) to accomplish the objectives is challenging because:

a)      channels need to be adopted depending on the target segment and positioning;

b)      the goals of the channel members may differ;

c)      the alternatives are numerous.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Advertising and Advertisements


Advertising today is a worldwide phenomenon. It is important to recognize that many advertisers use advertisements for many purposes with many different possible effects. For example, within a given country it is common to find what might be considered highly fanciful advertising for consumer goods such as toothpaste, detergents, or soft drinks, and highly technical messages dealing with construction equipment, medical supplies, or computer services. The advertisers themselves can include huge multinational firms, special interest groups, local shopkeepers, and individuals. Their intents can range from altering behavior to affecting the way people think about a particular social or economic position. The results of their efforts can range from enormously influential to a waste of the advertiser’s money. It is not, then, a subject that lends itself to oversimplification.

 

When you think about “advertising,” you probably think in terms of specific advertisements. To begin there, then, advertisements can be recognized as paid, non-personal communication forms used with persuasive intent by identified sources through various media.

 

As paid communication forms they are different from common varieties of publicity (e.g., a press release) or “public relations” e.g., a news conference), which are often covered by the media without charge. By non-personal they are distinguished from forms of personal salesmanship occurring in business establishments or door-to-door. The advertiser is identified, which again sets this form of persuasive communication apart from various types of promotion and publicity in the form of “news” or “feature” material often carried by the media, but supplied by a particular source whose intent is often persuasive.

 

Advertisements are most commonly associated with the mass media of newspapers, magazines, cinema, television, and radio, although they frequently flourish in other forms such as billboards, posters, and direct mail as well. And, finally, advertisements are overwhelmingly used with persuasive intent. That is, the advertisers are striving to alter our behavior and/or levels of awareness, knowledge, attitude, and so on in a manner that would be beneficial to them.

 

These are some of the most obvious characteristics of advertisements, the end product of much that is advertising.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Situation Analysis


With a clear understanding of organizational objectives and mission, the marketing manager must analyze and monitor the position of the firm and, specifically, the marketing department, in terms of its past, present, and future situation. Of course, the future situation is of primary concern. However, analysis of past trends and the current situation are most useful for predicting the future situation.

 

The situation analysis can be divided into six major areas of concern: (1) the cooperative environment; (2) the competitive environment; (3) the economic environment; (4) the social environment; (5) the political environment; and (6) the legal environment. In analyzing each of these environments, the marketing executive must search both for opportunities and for constraints or threats to achieving objectives. Opportunities for profitable marketing often arise from changes in these environments that bring about new sets of needs to be satisfied. Constraints on marketing activities, such as limited supplies of scarce resources, also arise from these environments.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

A Retailer’s Value Chain


The value a retailer adds lies in providing more choices, greater convenience, better quality, availability, and lower prices. To do so, it must perform several activities. The first stage of this chain is store operations, in which the retailer must perform four kinds of activities. First, it must make the right choices about the mix of goods that its stores must carry (merchandising). Once the mix of goods has been determined, purchasing must seek suppliers who are dependable, that is, would deliver on time and at good prices. The retailer, on the one hand, must also make sure that it does not run out of items that customers want but, on the other hand, cannot afford to be stuck which inventory that customers do not want. It cannot hold the goods too long either, because doing so also costs money. Moreover, the prices of products such as semiconductors or computers drop so fast that a retailer can loose a lot of money by holding inventory. Thus, inventory management is critical.

 

The second stage of the chain is logistic. The retailer must get the goods from suppliers to the right stores, at the right time, at the right cost. The last stage is marketing. The firm must market itself and its products through its advertising, promotion, and pricing, which is often done with the help of or in alliance with suppliers. In some cases the retailer may also have a service network to repair or maintain products.

 

In performing the activities of its value chain, a firm must interact with suppliers, customers, and firms in related industries. These other firms also have value chains of their own. What we really have, then, is a system of value chains called the value chain system.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The Changing Face of Customer Service


Excellent customer service—the daily, ongoing support of a company’s offerings—is critical in creating brand identity and ultimate success. It includes answering questions, taking orders, dealing with billing issues, handling complaints, scheduling appointments, and similar activities. These essential functions can make or break an organization’s relationships with its customers. The quality of customer care can significantly impact brand identity for service, manufacturing, and consumer products companies. Because of its importance in creating impressions and sustaining customer relationships, customer service has sometimes been called the “front door” of the organization or its “face.”

 

So how has the “face” of customer service changed with the influx of technology? Long ago all customer service was provided face-to-face through direct personal interaction between employees and customers. To get service you had to visit stores or service providers in person. The telephone changed this, allowing customers to call companies and speak directly with employees. Customer service became less personal, but without a doubt more efficient, through use of the telephone. With the evolution of computer technology, customer service representatives (CSRs) became even more efficient. Through computer information systems and customer data files, CSRs are able to call up customer records at their workstations to answer questions on the spot.

 

Over time, because communication and computer technologies allowed it, large organizations began to centralize their customer service functions, consolidating into a few large call centers that could be located anywhere in the country or world. But still, in these types of call centers, customer service is for the most part an international event with customers talking directly, one-on-one with an employee.

 

The advent and rapid proliferation of the efficient, but much maligned, automated voice response systems have changed personal customer service in many organizations into menu-driven, automated exchanges. In almost every industry and any business context consumers encounter these types of systems, and many are quite frustrating—for example, when a system has a long confusing set of menu options or when no menu options seems to fit the purpose of the call. Similarly, consumers become angered when they cannot get out of the automated system easily, or when there is no option to speak to a live person.

 

Some companies have overcome these obstacles, however, and have well-designed automated telephone systems that work well for customers. This is accomplished through a form of natural-language speech recognition technology that allows customers to easily interact through the telephone in ways that are much like talking to a real person. Further, a human contact is always easy to get to if needed. Customer satisfaction is rated among the highest in any industry. One of the keys may be that the vice president of retail voice technology occupies a senior management position, showing importance placed on this function. In general, satisfaction levels for automated speech recognition systems are higher than satisfaction with touch-tone systems and in some cases are higher than for live agents.

 

Beyond automated telecom systems, explosion of the internet is also dramatically changing customer service for many companies. Service can now be provided on the internet via e-mail, website robots, FAQs, and online chat. In these cases there is no direct human interaction, and customers actually perform their own service. At Ford Motor Company’s technology that allows dealership customers to set their own service appointments, send messages regarding their specific repair needs, and monitor the status of their vehicles, all online.

 

With the relentless proliferation of technology solutions, firms are finding that expectations for customer service have changed. Customers are demanding choices in how they get customer service, whether it be over the phone, automated voice systems, via fax or email, or through internet self-service. However, while customers often enjoy technology-based service and even demand it in many cases, they dislike it when it doesn’t work reliably (a common problem), when it doesn’t seem to have any advantages over the interpersonal service alternatives, and when there are no systems in place to recover from failures. Interestingly, when things don’t work as they are supposed to on an internet site or through an automated response system, customers are quick to look for more traditional interpersonal (in person or via telephone) options, coming full circle to where we started.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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