“Is” and “Is Not”


Once we have identified “could be”  but “is not” data, we will also be able to identify the peculiar factors that isolate our problem: exactly what it is, where it is observed, when it is observed, and its extent or magnitude. These peculiar factors will lead us closer to the problem’s cause.

Suppose for a moment that you have two identical potted plants growing in your office. One thrives but the other does not. If you take the wilting plant out of the office and ask someone about the probable cause for its sorry appearance, you will get any number of educated guesses. But if the same person observes that two identical plants in your office have not been receiving identical treatment (the thriving plant is on a sunny window sill and the wilting one is in a dim corner), the speculations as to cause will be immediate and more accurate than they could have been without a basis of comparison. Regardless of the content of a problem, nothing is more conducive to sound analysis than some relevant basis of comparison.

The decision as to what is close and what is logical must rest with the judgment of the problem solver. In many cases it is extremely important to identify the malfunction that “could be” but “is not” in order to narrow the scope of the search for cause. Each problem analysis is unique to the content of each problem.

Once we have identified bases of comparison in all four dimensions, we are able to isolate key distinguishing features of the problem. It is as if we had been describing the outlines of a shadow. With the completion of the “is not” data in our specification, the outlines begin to suggest the components capable of having cast the shadow.

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.

Commitment to Principles


We are increasingly convinced that there are several principles which tend to lead us to good process management. They are tough and often sacrificed.

Focus: In very competitive situations managers often go to focus; that is, they try to zero in on part of the playing field, part of the market, or part of the technology. Narrowing focus yields greater capability and a shared vision, like the power of a laser. However, in a reverse twist, focus always means we try to solve the customer’s whole problem, at least as much as we can. Ours is not a point solution. For example, product disposal is now getting attention in the design stage, and designers resist the rush to completion mentality of cycle time.

End User Drive: During technical development today, the end user’s problems are the top of every page. Technical development isn’t over until the customer agrees that we have solved the problems we began with.

Productivity: Everyone seems to agree that we must destroy oppressive bureaucracy in the new products operation. Any organization, however, even on a kid’s baseball diamond, needs some bureaucracy, and even ventures teams that have been spun out from their firms need a little. It is a glue, and its policies reduce the time spent on routine decisions.

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.

Inspect Products at the Right Time


Inspections used to be left until the later stages of the process – often just before the finished products were delivered to customers. As there was more chance of a product being faulty by the end of the process, all defects could be found in one big, final inspection. But the longer a unit is in a process, the more time and money is spent on it – so it makes sense to find faults as early as possible before any more money is wasted by working on a defective unit. It is better for a baker to find bad eggs when they arrive at the bakery, rather than use the eggs and then scrap the finished cakes.

Your first quality control inspections should come at the beginning of the process, testing materials as they arrive from suppliers – and there is a strong case for inspections within suppliers’ own operations. Then you should have inspections all the way through the process to the completion of the final product and its delivery to customers. Some particularly important places for insperctions are:

  • On raw materials when they arrive;
  • At regular intervals during the process;
  • Before high-cost operations;
  • Before irreversible operations, like firing pottery;
  • Before operations that might hide defects, like painting;
  • When production is complete;
  • Before shipping to customers.

This may seem like a lot of inspections, but remember that most of them are done by people working on the process. Quality at source means that the products are not taken away for testing in some remote laboratory, but are checked at each step before being passed on the next step.

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

Project Management


A project is any group of activities with a common goal, for which we try to control costs, resource usage, completion time, and quality of the output. However, large (one-time or multiple) projects in the range of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars are more common and undoubtedly have a larger total economic impact. Examples include new plants, schools, office buildings, research programs, some types of electronic research and development, bridges, and highways. Projects in the thousands to one million dollar range are even more numerous and include building houses, remodeling offices, modernizing wiring and plumbing, establishing a small PC cluster, and so on. Small and very small projects are too numerous to try to catalog. For example, getting to work in the morning can be considered a project, with such activities as shower, brush teeth, put on shoes, dry hair, and so on.

 Project management is a broad multi-level activity which involves strategic planning, middle- and short-term planning, scheduling, and control. We will first give a broad introduction to project management at all levels from strategic planning to control. Next we present the foundation of project scheduling without considering resource constraints. Then we consider the case of project scheduling with resource constraints from several points of view. Finally we discuss broader issues surrounding scheduling such as project design and strategic project control.

 Most of the formal work in project management has focused on large one-time projects. Project management tends to be a very involved process, requiring the careful coordination of experts in a number of areas. It is important that the individual parts of the process be carefully organized. It requires developing and manipulating a great deal of data and reports. The scheduling and control portion of project management have benefited greatly from the PC revolution.

 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