Defining Issues & Priorities


Ensure that the key issues facing business have been realistically defined in light of the current and rapidly changing business environment. There is nothing new about this requirement, but the fact is that very few management teams actually take the time and apply the discipline necessary to objectively define and prioritize the key issues that can make or break their business. The issues of inferior quality, higher cost products, lower productivity, and nonresponsive service plague manufacturers for the better part of the recent past. Many companies in industries such as steel, automotive, machine tool, textile, farm and construction equipment suffer badly as a result. Only few companies address these issues in effective ways. Most are unable to clearly identify the key issues, set priorities, and develop the necessary business plans to overcome the underlying problems.

While the specific issues vary for different companies and industries, the management mindset should not vary. To deal effectively with an increasingly turbulent environment, priorities must be set so the business can survive unexpected blows, adapt to sudden dropping changes, and then capitalize on smaller windows of opportunity that develop and close much more quickly than they have in the past.

Many progressive managers kick off their planning process with a session aimed specifically at getting agreement on key issues and priorities. Accepting these priorities require a shift in the way most managers think and act, such as:

  • Liquidity becomes a more important objective, often more important than reported earnings. It provides the flexibility to deal more effectively with unexpected events than is possible when everything is tied up in fixed and slow moving assets.
  • Productivity gains per dollar of capital and per employee must be achieved annually. These reductions must exceed inflation and achieve demonstrably lower costs.
  • Innovation must never stop. Demonstrable product and process improvements must be achieved year after year.
  • All cycle and response times must be continuously reduced.
  • A “frightened” sense of urgency must be the way of life in all parts of the business.

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.

A Sign of Bad Management


In the business world, there are many people who think that holding or attending a continuous string of meetings is a sign of their power and importance. The exact opposite is true. If meetings are merely routine or unnecessary, they are a sure sign of bad management.

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.

Acute Corporate Stress


Acute corporate stress is the most easily diagnosed. Something is clearly wrong and this will be evident in its financial performance. In the worst cases, a type of organizational schizophrenia takes hold, with conflicting decision making criteria and behavior very much in evidence.

Many small organizations are run by two partners that hardly converse despite spitting distance of each other, both ordering the same people to do different things. There are also giant PLCs and governments where supposed colleagues direct whole divisions as if they were private armies in pursuit of incongruent goals.

The good news in these situations is that this type of crisis is hard to ignore, that there is little alternative to taking action and that there are several courses of action that are proven to help.

The bad news is that if action is not taken the organization is on a fast track of failure.

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.

 

The Consequences of a Bad Boss


The leading cause of stress is the bad boss. In most organizations everyone in the company expect the chief executive officer has a boss, or has the potential to become a boss, even if that means you are instructing an apprentice or a student who is at the company for a short time on a work orientation program.

In terms of making our own choices in response to stress, even the very lowest person on the work ladder is still a boss—a boss of his or her own department. Thus, what a lot of people complain of having a bad boss, the corollary is that most of us are bad bosses—if not of others, then at least of ourselves.

The damage that a bad boss does is sometimes far more widespread than is seen at the time. With the ultimate control, as well as, knowledge of the bigger picture, the boss escapes the highest levels of stress at work, but can still be a powerful stress carrier. In just the same way that a child who is humiliated by a bully comes home and yells at a younger sibling, a boss can transfer anxieties and stresses to employees without ever letting them know the reasons behind the negative behavior.

When an employee is frustrated all day by the boss, these frustrations tend to get transferred along to innocent bystanders, rather like one of those dreadful chain letters. One may see drastic repercussions, ranging from demoralization and loss of self-worth, to burnout of virtually any organ system in the body. In the brain this burnout takes the form of fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, or obsessive behavior. Aggression can be triggered, causing such tragedies as life and child beating or even mass murders during a sudden wild shooting spree. Bad bosses are even the motivation for some suicides. In the stomach or heart, the results of a bad boss are often seen in ulcers or heart attacks.

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.

 

Outstanding Credit Culture


Just as individuals need a set of values (virtues) to guide their actions, systems should be designed to have a set of attributes which optimize their performance towards the goals. In this regard, the credit culture should have seven fundamental virtues:

  1. Provide fundamental insight to help clients achieve their economic goals and solve their financial problems.
  2. Responsive: the client deserves an answer as quickly as possible, even when the answer is no.
  3. Flexible (creative): commit to finding better ways to meet the client’s financial needs.
  4. Reliable: select clients as long-term partners and treat accordingly.
  5. Manage risk with agreed upon limits. Clients do not want to fail financially, and you should want a bad loan.
  6. Ensure an appropriate economic return to the firm for risk taken. The higher the risk, the higher the return the lower the risk, the lower the return. This is the expression of justice.
  7. Create a “premium” for service delivery. The concept is to provide superior value to the client through outstanding service quality.

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.

 

Organizational Objectives


Objectives are guideposts used by managers to define standards of what the organization should accomplish in such areas as profitability, customer service, and social responsibility. Managers can continually evaluate performance in terms of how well the organization is moving in the direction of its objectives.

Objectives often become standards of the manager by their definition of excellence in organizational performance. Without such standards, the manager possesses no tools for evaluating performance – no means of deciding whether work is good or bad. Thus, objectives provide not only a definite statement of what the organization wants to accomplish but also a means of evaluating progress toward a goal. If performance appears unsatisfactory, management can take corrective action, refocusing the organization in the direction of the objectives.

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.

Learning Organizations are Fun


Many organizations, even in this day and age, still hate hearing bad news. This is driven by their attitude to learning: at heart, organizations are either learning organizations or they are not. Those that are not learning organizations genuinely hate bad news. They shoot messengers and prefer to bury their head in the sand till they get kicked out of their complacency and forced to act. Fortunately (or not) for some of them, they have enough credit in the bank to get kicked quite a few times before eventually they receive one kick too many and are pushed over the edge. Learning organizations, however, are fun to work in and attract talent.

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.

A Bad Boss


Bad bosses are people too, with their own fears, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses. Sometimes the pompous ones are basically shy and insecure. The ones who yell at people and unduly assert their aggression may be having significant family problems. Bosses with personal health problems may take these out on the staff. Still other bosses may be nice people who are simply in over their heads, and have absolutely no aptitude for the jobs.

By realizing that human frailties often underlie even the most objectionable qualities of bad bosses, employees can be in a better position to deal with them, and to judge whether the situation is temporary or hopeless. They may help them decide whether to stick it out or quit the job.

Even though a bad boss counts on the inertia of the human spirit, you can break free of the intangible bonds that bind. Also beware of some of the tangible bonds. Whatever you do, don’t lock yourself into an enormous mortgage, or you will not have the option of cooling off in another job at a reduced salary. There is a shortage of skilled labor, and a tremendous shortage of versatile labor (people who will accept a total change in career direction when circumstances dictate). Even if you end up with a different bad boss, at least the change will be refreshing. Remember that the average worker will have between four and six complete job changes in the course of working lifetime, so you don’t need to be caught in the “one company, for better or for work” trap for your whole career.

People need a mission in life. If this is denied by a bad boss at work, there are other ways to fulfill this need—ways that will still allow an overall sense of accomplishment. It is obviously bad business for any company to have such a reversal of energies affecting its operation. However, concentrating most of their energies on pursuits outside of work is a common defense against the bad boss when employees elect to stay with their jobs rather than resigning.

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.

Growing up


Organizations are not conscious in the same way people are: they do not have their own memory and the future can be separated from the past more quickly and totally.

The way organizations learn, store and share knowledge becomes key, and any effective organization must encourage learning. It must always be able to learn and store the lessons of the past, but with people coming and going faster and faster, this is not always easy.

At the same time as learning fast and remembering important lessons, they must also be able to unlearn and break bad habits, which can be a more difficult task than effective learning.

Every new organizational generation must be given a fresh chance to prove itself. As chairmen and CEOs come and go, so the organizational slate can be wiped clean in the same way that the sins of the father should not be passed on to the son. Organizations need to choose wisely about what to hang on to and what to jettison.

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.

An Advice to Change Leaders: Persuade Indirectly


In large organizations, it is not feasible to persuade people through one-on-one communication. Particularly, if the organization is multi-locational, persuasion has to be through indirect means such as memos, speeches and newsletters. Change leaders also need to build capabilities in persuading others indirectly. The following guidelines can help managers be effective in indirect persuasion:

  1. Neutralize the power of informal networks: Change leaders need to develop reliable communication channels to communicate their change agenda directly to employees in the organization. Otherwise people will rely on informal grapevine that can distort the change message either unintentionally or deliberately. In either case, employees may develop unfavorable perceptions of the change agenda leading to opposition and resistance. Communication channels such as employee forums, town meetings and special newsletters can counter the grapevine and informal networks. Change leaders must be particularly careful in not withholding bad news because such news gets out very quickly into the grapevine.
  2. Repeat the message: Focus and repetition are critical for effective communication. This means that the change agenda should consist of only a limited number (two or three, at best) of themes. These themes need to be repeated and reinforced through different communication channels.
  3. Match the medium to the message: Speeches and video-conferences are ideal to communicate vision and values; these media are also appropriate to inspire people to embrace change. On the other hand, data, graphs and charts are best conveyed in the written form—such as memos, newsletters and web pages. Change leaders must think very carefully about appropriate media before communicating their change agenda.
  4. Simplify the message: The change agenda needs to be conveyed through a framework that is conceptually simple and easy to grasp. Yet, change leaders must avoid the trap of oversimplification. Oversimplified messages sound trite and faddish and can significantly reduce the credibility of the communicator. Simple frameworks are easy to remember, and are also powerful in framing the change agenda to mobilize support.
  5. Create a new story about change: Stories constitute a powerful medium to mobilize support. People are more likely to remember stories rather than facts and figures. Stories are also more effective in persuading people to alter their perceptions of change. Therefore change leaders need to be able to craft their change agenda in the form of story.
  6. Build personal credibility: Change leaders who are respected, considered trustworthy and competent are more likely to be effective in persuading their employees to embrace change. Personal credibility is built on the foundation of consistency. Change leaders must demonstrate consistency between their thoughts, words and behavior. Inconsistent, self-serving behavior can severely erode the credibility of a leader.

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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