Bureaucratic Management Approach


The roadblock stems from management’s reluctance to push profit and decision-making responsibility on with too many management levels and high-paid support people. The real contributions of most corporate, sector or group level marketing, advertising, manufacturing, planning or R&D activities cannot be to line management responsibilities and too costly to justify their existence. We have not been able to find proven profit contributions that offset the costs involved.

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 Aging Crisis


Not a company exists whose management doesn’t say, at least for public consumption, that it wants an organization flexible enough to adjust quickly to changing market conditions, lean enough to beat any competitor’s price, innovative enough to keep its products and services technologically fresh, and dedicated enough to deliver maximum quality and consumer service.

So, if managements want companies that are lean, nimble, flexible, responsive, competitive, innovative, efficient, customer-focused, and profitable, why are so many. Companies are bloated, clumsy, rigid, sluggish, non-competitive, uncreative, inefficient, disdainful of customer needs, and losing money. The answers lie in how these companies do their work and why they do it that way.

Corporations do not perform badly because workers are lazy and managements are inept. Just the same, the record of industrial and technological accomplishment over the past century is proof enough that managements are not inept and workers do work.

Inflexibility, unresponsiveness, the absence of customer focus, an obsession with activity rather than result, bureaucratic paralysis, lack of innovation, high overhead—these are the legacies of industrial leadership. These characteristics are not new; they have not suddenly appeared. They have been present all along. If costs are high they can be passed on to customers. If customers are dissatisfied, they have nowhere else to turn. If new products are slow in coming, customers will wait. The important managerial job is to manage growth, and the rest doesn’t matter. Now that growth has flattened out, the rest matters a great deal.

The business problem is that in 21st century with companies designed during the nineteenth century to work well in the twentieth—we need something different.

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.

Power


Power is what everyone wants and no one seems to have enough of. The desire for power is inherent in our very nature and fundamental to our survival.

Nowhere is the pursuit of power more evident than in today’s workplace. Managers are constantly striving to increase their arsenal of power, which is how it should be. Some may use power for selfish gain; others may use it to benefit the company. Regardless of how managers use power, the fact remains that without it they are incapable of achieving anything of significance for themselves, other people, the company, or society at large.

Power operates under the same principle as love: the more one gives to others, the more one receives in return. Unfortunately, many managers assume that there is a limited supply of power.

Most people contribute only a small fraction of their full capabilities, simply because they don’t feel a sense of personal power. They are bound by a bureaucratic management system that does little to encourage initiative and high performance. Almost all the power within the organization rests with those at the very top. Powerless in their ability to achieve results, most people eventually lose interest and settle for mediocrity.

The secret of achieving success as a manager and as a company lies in learning how to release the hidden potential of people. It lies in helping workers on all levels, from floor sweeper to executive, experience a sense of their own power. There are no success limits for the managers who master this art. Likewise, the company that rewards managers for successfully employing this art dramatically increases its ability to achieve its objectives.

If you want to achieve ultimate power for yourself you must get out of your own way. Instead of focusing your energies on the acquisition of power for yourself, focus them on how you can empower the people who work for you. If you are successful in giving your people power, they will surely lift you on their shoulders to heights of power and success you never dreamed possible.

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.

Approaches to Change


Axelrod discusses in his book titled: Terms of Engagement, four approaches to change: i) Leader-driven approach, ii) Process-driven approach, iii) Team-driven approach, and iv) Change Management approach.

Leader-driven change is more suitable for small and medium enterprises with owner-managers. This approach works well when the manager or leader has all the necessary information and knowledge. Leader-driven changes tend to be directive and non-participative. Therefore this approach is less suitable when: a) the workforce is young and/or highly skilled, b) the business environment is complex and dynamic, and c) successful change requires active involvement of a number of people in the organization.

Process-driven changes are led by experts or outside consultants and supported by the leader; these changes are more common in large, bureaucratic organizations. This approach works well when the change requires technical or specialized expertise. Also being directive and non-participative, as in the case of leader-driven approach, this approach is therefore less suitable when: a) the workforce is young and/or highly skilled, b) the business environment is complex and dynamic, and c) successful change requires active involvement of a number of people in the organization.

Team-driven approaches are most common in large, manufacturing enterprises that have skilled and educated employees. Change management strategies—such as TQM, Quality Circles, and Six Sigma—exemplify this approach. These are highly participative change efforts that empower employees and provide them with involvement, participation and ownership of change. Team-based approaches that are properly executed can unleash enormous levels of employee energy and motivation. This can, in turn, lead to innovation and productivity gains. However, using this approach can also cause some discomfort for managers in an organization because they may not be used to sharing their power and authority with workers. Moreover, this approach requires managers to shift from a directive, authoritarian style based on power and expertise to a participative style based on persuasion, coaching and helping. More importantly, the team-based approach to execute change requires the establishment of a ‘parallel organization.’

The fourth approach to change is called the Change Management approach. This is a combination of expert-driven and team-driven approaches. Whereas the former provides a business and technical focus to change, the latter generates ownership, involvement and commitment. So as to gain this commitment, most specialists, experts and change management consultants have incorporated the parallel organization concept in their process-driven approach. The Change Management paradigm is the approach to change that most organizations use today. Although it seemingly seeks to integrate ownership of change with practical business focus, the Change Management approach has shortcomings. Instead of involvement and commitment, this approach breeds cynicism, bureaucracy and resistance. It actually disempowers employees, by reinforcing hierarchical top-down 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, Lectures, Line of Sight

Involving Employees


To be successful when facing multiple tasks, often on multiple projects, more employees at all levels will need to delegate some of their activities and responsibilities to other organizational members. This means that employees are going to have to be give certain amounts of authority to make decisions that directly effect their work. Even though delegation was once perceived as something that managers did with lower levels of management, delegation will be required at all levels of the organization—in essence, peer delegation, or using influence without authority.

In addition to being required to take on more responsibilities, employees will be expected to make decisions without the benefit of the tried-and-true decisions of the past. And because all these employees are part of the process today, there is more of a need for them to contribute to the decision-making process. In most organizations, the days of autocratic management are over. To facilitate customer demands and fulfill corporate expectations, today’s employees need to be more involved. Group decision-making enables these employees to have more input into the processes, and greater access to needed information. Such actions are also consistent with work environments that require increased creativity and innovation.

Another phenomenon of involving employees will be an emphasis on work teams. The bureaucratic structure of yesterday—where clear lines of authority existed and the chain of command was paramount—is not appropriate for many of today’s companies. Workers from different specializations in an organization are increasingly required to work together to successfully complete complex projects. As such traditional work areas have given way to more of a team effort, building and capitalizing on the various skills and backgrounds that each member brings to the team.

Involving employees allows them an opportunity to focus on the job goals. By giving them more freedom, employees are in a better position to develop the means to achieve the desired results.

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

Realigning the Organization


Organization or reorganization schemes have been proposed ad nauseam as solutions to many business problems. As a general rule, organizational changes, especially those that simply reshuffle the same names into different boxes on the organization chart, don’t improve anything. This does not mean suggesting some new organization approach that is better suited for these turbulent times. However, many organizations are too top-heavy, over-structured, and over-satisfied to be responsive to market needs and too costly to be competitive. The structure and staffing of any organization must be rigorously challenged to ensure it is really geared to accomplish the fundamental objectives of the business in as cost-effective a manner as possible. An honest evaluation of the answers to the following critical questions will provide a good function for action.

a)        Is the organization structured to serve markets or simply to manage functions and sell products? Have priority markets been identified? Does someone have primary responsibility for ensuring that the product/service package is tailored to each target market? Do mechanisms exist to ensure cross-markets? Is there any kind of a market focus in the selling organization?

b)        Are there enough discrete profit centers? Do enough managers feel the burden of full profit responsibility? Is the business unit larger than its most successful smaller competitors? Are there any big cost centers that are not assigned or allocated to someone who has a profit and loss responsibility?

c)        Are there corporate group or division staff redundancies? Do the same titles exist at different levels (e.g., corporate controller, group controller, division controller, plant controller)? If so, does it make sense? Can staff position or groups show how they actively contribute to profit results? If so, do line managers agree that these functions are worth the cost?

d)        Are there too many layers? Are there more than five layers between the business unit manager and first level workers? Are there managers with assignments limited to managing one, two, three or four people? Why? Can any of these activities be combined under one manager? Why not?

e)        Is the ratio of supporters to actual results producers satisfactory? How many people actually make a direct contribution to results (e.g., first-line sales personnel, direct hourly workers, sales order engineering and order entry workers, handlers of incoming materials, and storing and shipping personnel)? How many managers, staff, and support personnel are cheering them on? If there is more than one support person for every two producers, what do they do? How do they contribute to profits?

The questions are not new, but the answers are more important now than ever. Traditional or experience-based answers are probably wrong because conditions have changed so dramatically. Moreover, it is doubtful whether existing management can or will ever come up with the right answers, because they have vested interests and the changes needed are simply too tough for them to swallow. These organization structure questions are not as serious for many small to medium-size companies since they are not as likely to be troubled with highly structured, functionally focused organizations lacking a dedicated market orientation. However, even managers in these companies must constantly fight the natural tendency to become more structured, bureaucratic, and lethargic.

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 Bottomless Pit


For many companies the networked enterprise vision became the reality for what appeared to be a bottomless pit into which money was poured with little prospect of achieving the ‘benefits’ that were originally sought. The returns from early investment in IT were problematic. The potion turned those with aspirations to become princesses and fairies into frogs and goblins.

Much of past ‘investment’ in IT has been used to shore up existing ways of working. We have used IT to set our organization in concrete. We have worked hard and spent millions consolidating a bureaucratic form of organization which we are now trying to break down.

IT suppliers, with a mixture of cheek and bravado, have long been in the business of offering solutions to the many problems which their own products have created. They suggest that this or that upgrade may yet turn the lead boots they have supplied into winged slippers.

While overall the introduction of early generations of IT may have had little beneficial impact, it does appear to have widened the gap between the more and less efficient companies. There are ‘winners,’ but for many IT from its origins to the dotcom era has been an ‘honest mirror’ that has confronted them with their own warts and wrinkles.

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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