At Work or at Home


At work we feel in control. More importantly, our efforts are generally noticed and rewarded. Apart from financial rewards, we get ego gratification at work in countless other ways. Co-workers compliment us on our new outfits. Customers thank us for good service. The boss turns to us for help on an important contract because no one else can handle it as well.

At home, on the other hand, our good work may be taken for granted; we may be noticed only when we do things incorrectly.

With the frequent disparity between the ego-strokes received at home and at work, it’s hardly a wonder that more men and women than ever before are giving in to the siren call of their work, choosing to stay late at the workplace. It is for this reason that many workaholics frankly admit that they seldom need to be forced to work; they simply like to work, more than they like to spend time at home.

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, and my Lectures.

Death of a Wonder Youngster


Arfa Karim (born 1995 – January 14, 2012), was a student from an under-developed village of Pakistan, who in 2004 at the age of 9 years, became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in the world. She was invited by Bill Gates to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in USA. She also wrote a poem about Bill Gates.

On returning to Pakistan, Arfa had numerous interviews on almost all of the country’s known television channels and newspapers. In August 2005, Arfa Karim received the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of Science and Technology, presented by the Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time. She also received the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award again in August 2005 by the President of Pakistan. Arfa Karim is also the recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance. This is a very high level civil award granted to people who have shown excellence in their respective fields over a long period of time. Arfa is till now the youngest recipient of that award ever.

Arfa Karim has also represented Pakistan on various international forums, she was invited by the IT Professionals of Dubai for a stay of two weeks in Dubai. A dinner reception was hosted for her there, which was attended by the diagnostics of Dubai including the Ambassador of Pakistan. During that trip, Arfa was presented with various medals and awards. She also flew a plane in a flying club in Dubai at the age of 10, and received the first flight certificate.

In November 2006, Arfa was invited by Microsoft to be a part of the keynote session in the Tech-Ed Developers conference held in Barcelona. The theme of the conference was “Get ahead of the game” and Arfa was presented as a true specimen of being ahead of the game. She was the only Pakistani among over 5000 developers in that conference.

As of 2011, at the age of 16, Arfa Karim was studying at Lahore Grammar School Paragon Campus in her second year of A Levels. She suffered from cardiac arrest after an epileptic seizure on December 22, 2011 and was admitted to Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in critical condition.

On January 2, 2012 Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the hospital with his daughter Fiza Batol Gilani to inquire about the health of Arfa Karim.

On January 9, 2012, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, has made contact with Arfa’s parents, and directed his doctors to adopt “every kind of measure” for her treatment.

On January 13, 2012, The condition of world’s youngest MCP Arfa Karim was improving and some parts of her brain showed signs of improvement. Arfa fell desperately ill last month and doctors said she had suffered brain damage, leaving her in a coma at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Lahore. Her father, Amjad Karim, said Microsoft had raised the possibility of flying Arfa to the US for care.

On January 14, 2012 16 years old Arfa Karim died at 9:50 PM (Pakistan Standard Time) at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Lahore. (Wikipedia)

Arfa wrote some poems. Specimens include:

I would like to be …..

Like a bird in the sky
Flying freely and so high
Like a fish in the water
And the kings beautiful daughter

Like a tiny little mouse
Eating cheese around the house
Like a bear in the mountain
And the water in the fountain

Like a lion in the jungle
Roaring loudly with hunger
Like a monkey in the zoo
All the time copying you
. . . . Arfa Karim

White Rose

In the storm
Stands the white rose
tumultuous waves
of destruction abound her

Yet tall is the white rose
strong in the face
Of the sensed doom around her
And she does not bow down

Pure is the white rose
In the compost earth
growing eternal strength
in the nights that so hurt

I see not the white rose
She is so far away
But I long to protect her
But only the words can I say

So I send her my words
And my poets heart
To help her when
there is hope to see her through

Be Strong little flower
Your heart will guide true
And as long as you want
I will always talk to you
. . . Arfa Karim

Stars

  I look to the sky at night and admire the beauty of the stars.
I stand in awe of their brilliance;
They are as shining and constant
and they have been since the beginning of time.

They light the heavens and fill our hearts with wonder.
When one burns out, another takes its place;
for they are eternal.
Wherever you are, they guide you from their home high above the earth.
At times, they seem close enough to touch,
as they transport your dreams far away.

Their magic compels us to offer up wishes for their consideration.
They make us realize that even when the sky is the darkest,
a tiny beacon of light still shines through.
They are God’s reminder to us that some things really do go on forever.
. . . Arfa Karim

I have no daughter, but Arfa Karim was a daughter figure.  Till 3:30 am and despite my perpetual efforts I was unable to have a snooze. The news about her death made me so upset that my eyes welled up tears and my heart filled up with gloom. Arfa, was the shine of the moon and the breeze of morning; she bestowed her colors to rainbow; she left behind her wings for her fellow daughters to scale the heights of knowledge. Arfa was a complete person: she was not just a book worm, she used to play games, watch cartoon programs, fly planes, play music, and sing folk songs. Above all she memorized some verses of Qur’an and practiced high moral character. She can be a role model—an inspiration—to our younger generation. With tears in its eyes, I pay rich tribute to Arfa. Nevertheless, I feel her saying:

Don’t cry for me,
I’m right here.
Although you can’t see me
I can see your tears

Crisis Communication


One of the most visible functions of the PR department is to help management plan for and respond to crisis. A good PR professional looks for potentil problems, constantly scans the business environment, then alerts management to the implications of such problems, and suggests the best course of action.

Disasters of earthquake proportions fall into the category of public relations nightmares created by sudden , violent accidents. Plane crashes, oil spills, chemical leaks, and product defects all belong to this group. The other type of crisis is the sort that builds slowly and occurs because of a company’s conscious, but ill-founded, decisions.

Whn disaster strikes , a defensive posture is generally counterproductive. The best course is to be proactive, admit your mistakes and apologize.

When disaster hits most companies respond, to some degree, through their public relations department, but they often ignore the audience that is likely to be hit hardest—employees. To minimize the impact of any crisis on employees, be sure to communicate honestly, openly, and often, actively encourage employees to share their concerns, and use caution when sharing personal opinions.

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, Lectures, Line of Sight

Benchmarking


We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are. Shift from the original status is the key for success.

If a company is loosing the market (or) customers, the company has to realize that somebody is doing well ahead. So it is necessary to find out the ways to get their competitor’s level and have to beat them to retain the market and customers. An ideal tool to meet this level is benchmarking.

Benchmarking is a way to go backstage and watch another company’s performance from the wings where all the stage tricks and hurried re-alignments are visible. It is the practice of being humble enough to admit that someone else is better at something, and wise enough to learn to how to match and even surpass, them at it.

It is the process of identification, understanding and practicing the outstanding practices and processes from organizations anywhere in the world to help the organizations to improve its perfomance.

While benchmarking, it is not ethical to benchmark a product with another. This will give only the numerical values of weight, width, height, number of defects and number of rejections. But the objective is to benchmark a process with the best processes anywhere in the world having that best product as a target.

Benchmarking is not copying or imitating. This involves observing and learning from others. it is not a time-bound event. It is a continuous journey and an ongoing process without end, till the company is existing. The more we split the process into small segments the more will be the value added to each individual process. This is the key feature of benchmarking.

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, Lectures, Line of Sight

Knowledge Management: Sharing What is Known


One by one, employees learn what they need to know and develop areas of expertise that are called on when needed to perform a certain job. However, there are occasions in which somebody in an organization requires special expertise but doesn’t know how to find it within the company. When this occurs, the company may waste time and money by “reinventing the wheel,” developing expertise that already exists (if they only knew where to find it). In other cases, if the necessary expertise is not tapped or new expertise is not developed, then either something will get done improperly or it will not get done at all.

Acknowledging this situation, in recent years many companies have instituted what is known as knowledgement management programs. Knowledge management is defined as the process of gathering, organizing, and sharing a company’s information and knowledge assets. Typically, knowledgement programs involve using technology to establish repository databases and retreival systems. These are ways of using computers to sort through and identify the areas of expertise represented in the company—that is, its intellectual capital. But don’t misunderstand: Knowledgement relies on human skills for success. Computers merely organize what those skills are and where in the company they may be found. One-third of all companies and 80 percent of large multinational enterprises already have a knowledge management system in place, and most others expect to implement in the near future.

It’s important to note that simply having a knowledge management program does not ensure success. Employees also must use it, but too often they don’t. this is called knowing-doing gap—the tendency for employees to refrain from using the knowledge that’s available to them in the company, leading to poor performance. Although there are many possible reasons for not using a knowledge management system, the most dominant is the tendency for employees to be afraid of expressing their ideas (for fear of giving people in other parts of the company an advantage over them) or of seeking ideas from others (for fear of admitting that they don’t know something). Obviously, for knowledgement to be effective people in the company have to be willing to both donate and receive information. To ensure that their company’s knowledge resources are put to use, execuitives put various incentives in place to encourage the company’s many experts to add their expertise to the database and to encourage employees to use others’ expertise contained in the database. Given the success of the company’s system, it’s apparent that the knowing-doing gap may not be found in the company. In fact, on the heels of its success, similar systems need to be introduced in the company’s sales reps and its research and development unit.

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

Facing up to Deficiencies


Many companies fail to objectively evaluate their products against competitive offerings in a rigorous manner. If they do go through some kind of an evaluation process, it is often superficial or biased, leading to a continuation of “business as usual” rather than dramatic cost or performance improvements. In some cases, management is not presented with the real facts because it is easier not to “rock the boat.” In other cases, management may see the facts but not accept or face them squarely, since it is not easy to admit that a product is no longer competitive. As a result, a surprising number of companies continue to try to get by with products that are not competitive and they fail to make the fundamental, essential changes in design or cost.

There are two important points that successful companies always follow. First, it is essential to ensure that products are designed for efficient manufacturing and assembly. Second, “me too” parity is never a solid basis for gaining or regaining position. Technical programs should always be designed to leapfrog the competition rather than play “catch up” against moving competitive targets.

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

Commitment to Plan


Management commitment to plan is a difficult concept to define and probably the most difficult area to probe. At the same time, it is in many respects the most crucial area. A deep-rooted sense of commitment is why certain management teams are able to overcome all obstacles and still achieve planned results. It is the same ingredient that enables a team to win against tough competition even though their best players are injured or all the breaks in the game go against them.

Without attempting to be a psychologist, there are several things to look for to determine whether this sense of commitment exists. What has been the track record of those submitting the plan? It is a positive sign if they have a history of fulfilling commitments. Conversely, if the group has not met its commitments in the past, it is essential to find out what has changed to make their commitment to the current plan any more meaningful. Is this evidence that individuals understand how a failure to meet their personal or functional commitments would jeoperdize the ability of the whole group to accomplish its plan? Is there any indication that anyone in the group feels that function has overcommitted or that they have been pressured into making commitments that are unrealistic?

 It is unikely that anyone will admit they are not committed to a plan they developed and recommend. But questions directed to each functional area about the certainty or difficulty of achieving their part of the plan help everyone see what musdt be done to successfully implement the plan. Such questioning helps to establish the importance of each individual’s personal commitments not only to the plan but to the rest of the organization. In a sense, it helps to develop a form of peer pressure, which is just as important in the execution of the business plan as it is in other walks of life. No one enjoys being in the position of having let teammates down.

 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

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

“I was Wrong”


There is a business philosophy I subscribe to which says that if you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough. I believe that to get ahead in business you have to be constantly testing the edge. This means that often you are going to be wrong. The good executives are right most of the time, but they also know when they are wrong and are not afraid to admit it.

 The people who are least secure about their abilities have the hardest time admitting their mistakes. They fail to realize that making a mistake and admitting it—owning up to it—are two totally separate acts. It is not the mistake itself but how a mistake is handled that forms the lasting impression.

 These people would be so much better off, and would look so much better in the eyes of management, if they could admit their mistakes and get on with it rather than waste everyone’s time trying to rationalize them, cover them up, or lay the blame elsewhere.

 There are very capable executives who get excited about their mistakes. They feel that by doing something wrong they may have learned something right and can’t wait to try again.

 An ability to say “I was wrong” is essential to success because it’s cathartic. It allows these successful executives to “get on with it,” to put their mistakes behind them, and to move on to other things which may contribute to their next big success.

 

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 contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight