Productivity—the Japanese Way


Economists are forever telling us that we need to increase productivity in order to improve our standard of living. Productivity is one of those concepts that are so loaded with meaning and implications that is very difficult to define, much less explain. Not surprisingly then, improving “it” is one of the most difficult tasks facing business. More to the point, the time for improvement is quickly running out. Industrial performance is being outstripped at a frightening pace by the Japanese. In fact, it has reached the point where their productivity performance is so superior that they can literally pick any product and any market and quickly come to dominate it.

The idea that Japanese are uniquely gifted in only a few related areas has been debunked by their proven successes in industries as diverse as automobiles and semi-conductors. As well, the facile suggestion that the Japanese are somehow culturally inclined to be productive doesn’t wash. Japanese managers have taken over factories in Europe and the US and greatly improved productivity records. Productivity has also been high in their North American plants.

If corporate managers believe that their workers can be as competitive as anyone else in the world, and technically, there’s no valid reason why they can’t be, then they must find better ways to help their employees realize their potential. In that sense, study of Japanese methods is a jumping-off point that can lead to adaptations that will produce unique ways of improving productivity.

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.

Personal Selling: Two Approaches


Personal Selling: Two Approaches

Many American companies do not put nearly enough effort into direct, personal communication. Japanese success in displacing the US as Saudi Arabia’s leading supplier is instructive. Japanese exporters and small teams to meet with Saudi importers: Japanese exporters; they go to Saudi workshops, travel to secondary towns, and meet with sub-agents. The Americans, on the other hand, invite all their Saudi agents together for a luncheon, do not have private meetings, do not get their hands dirty, and never travel to secondary towns—they tend to stick to the three market centers. Saudis complain that US effort is misdirected: American personnel devote infinitesimal detail to making advance arrangements for visiting executives, going so far as to specify rooms overlooking a certain view from the hotel.

Japanese firms supplement their direct, personal efforts with heavy local advertising. They use gifts generously in product introductions, and warrantees on Japanese consumer electronics range up to three years. To carry out this business, Japanese trading companies have large staffs of professional international marketers who have been cultivated since graduation from a Japanese international trading university, schooled in English and Arabic, and rotated worldwide as international trading specialists.

Compared to most other cultures, particularly non-Western. Americans are extraordinarily preoccupied with the tangible aspects of a product. They round up all their sales agents and give a product presentation instead of putting their energies into the more important component of international marketing—people. In American and only a few other countries it is normal to do business from a distance, between strangers, by mail or telephone.

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.

Employee-Employer Contract


Employees and employers are engaged in a stakeholder relationship that includes numerous expectations by both parties. The employer, for example, has assumed various duties and obligations. Some of these responsibilities are economic or legal, others are social or ethical in nature.

The relationship is clearly more than simply paying a worker for the labor provided. Cultural values and traditions also play a role. In most Western countries, employers feel they have a duty to include workers on the board of directors to assist in forming company policy. For many years, Japanese employers have offered their workers lifelong employment, although this practice has become less widespread in recent years.

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.

Deadlines


Our emphasis on speed and deadlines is often used against us in business dealings. In Far Eastern countries such as Japan, the Americans may be asked how long he or she plans to stay at the first meeting. Then negotiations are purposely not finalized until a few hours before the American’s departure, when the Japanese know they can wring extra concessions from the foreigner because of his or her haste to finish and return home on schedule.

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.

 

Extending the Product Life Cycle


The concept of the product life cycle tells us that a sequence of actions is required to maintain a product’s sales and profits. The goal of the planning is to stretch out the life of the product, thus keeping it profitable longer. The following techniques are often effective in extending a product’s life cycle:

  1. New or extended uses: The sales of rugged four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles, ranging from inexpensive jeeps to Range Rovers, increased dramatically once they became accepted as family automobiles.
  2. b. Reduce price and build volume: Tylenol became a much more successful product after Johnson & Johnson reduced its price.
  3. c. Increased frequency of Use: Trade associations that are connected to the poultry and fish industries have been successful in informing the public that their products are low in cholesterol and should be eaten frequently as part of a healthy diet.
  4. d. Broaden the target market: As the ethical issue, American tobacco firms have successfully enlarged the market for American cigarettes by focusing on Japan. They have also been very successful in expanding the market for tobacco products in Europe and South America.

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.

 

Understanding Culture


Culture is a shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms for behavior. All members of a culture have similar assumptions about how people should think, behave, and communicate, and they all tend to act on those assumptions in much the same way.

You belong to several cultures. The most obvious is the culture you share with all the people who live in your own country. You also belong to other cultural groups, including an ethnic group, a religious group, and perhaps a profession that has its own special language and customs.

Distinct groups that exist within a major culture are referred to as subcultures. Groups that might be considered subcultures in the US are Mexican Americans, Mormons, wrestling fans, Chinese Americans, and Harvard graduates.

By bridging cultural differences, you can successfully achieve intercultural communication, the process of sending and receiving messages between people of different cultures. When communicating with a person from another culture, you will be most effective if you can identify the differences between your cultures and accommodate those differences without expecting either the other party or yourself to give up your identity.

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.

Friendship and Business


Americans like to think of themselves as friendly. Yet others find us impersonal and rushed. We come on too strong too fast; we are intimidating to some foreigners. We then fail to fulfill the implicitly promised friendship; we seem phony. In most parts of the world, friendships are slow to form, requiring tremendous commitment and attention over the long term. Anything less than the gradual and deliberate approach may be seen as insincerity, and insincerity compared to the seriousness with which friendships are taken elsewhere. Once formed, many foreign friendships are virtually permanent. And with the friendship come obligations, not only to help in emergencies, but to help in a number of ways the average American would consider entirely unreasonable.

The importance of relationships strongly affects the conduct of business. The foreigner needs to assess any business associate and most likely will make a deal not purely on the basis of the best price or product but rather on personal estimation. From Italy to China, extra personal involvement is important; many foreigners feel that if both parties can be friends, then business between them will flow naturally and smoothly.

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

Courtesy and Competence


The two go hand in hand. Statistics show that customers seem to be happier being served by an enthusiastic amateur rather than an indifferent expert. Now for you this might be determined by whatever it is you’re being served with as a customer. For example, if I was going to the dentist, I think I might put up with some indifference if it was an expert dentist. However, the reality is of course that we want both. I would like a dentist that was relaxed and personable and at the same time accurate with his/her instruments.

Common courtesies and manners are very important, probably more important than you may consider at this point. They are also, very often, culturally based—for example, German consumers will place less importance than Italian or British consumers on such things as friendliness and personality. How you can actually be courteous and good mannered will also vary, for example, in Britain many people will shy away from the perhaps over zealous. American style of being best buddies and will avoid expressions such as ‘have a nice day’ even though, when said sincerely, customers warm to them.

Competence means that whoever serves the customer in your business or whoever supports people that serve customers in your business has to do things and do them well. It means getting things right first time. It means knowing what you should know. It means doing what you can do to the best that you can do it—competence and courtesy, hand in hand—it’s a licence to keep customers for life.

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