Vicarious Learning


Vicarious learning, or modeling, is learning through the experiences of others. For example, a person can learn to do a new job by observing others or by watching videotapes. Several conditions must be met to produce various learning. First, the behavior being modeled must be relatively simple. Although we can learn by watching someone else how to push three or four buttons to set specifications on a machine, we probably cannot learn a complicated sequence of operations without also practicing the various steps ourselves. Second, the behavior being modeled usually must be concrete, not intellectual. We can learn by watching others how to respond to the different behaviors of a particular manager or how to assemble a few components into a final assembly. But we probably cannot learn through simple observation how to write a computer program or to conceptualize or think abstractly. Finally, to learn a job vicariously, we must possess the physical ability needed to do the job. Most of us can watch televised baseball games or tennis matches every weekend.

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.

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Japan’s Manufacturing Techniques


Nations are built not with bricks and stones but with the capacity to create and apply knowledge. The result of knowledge creation and application in manufacturing and management practices is well demonstrated by Japan. Today we are witness to many industrialized economies that are strengthening their manufacturing activities simply by adopting these techniques.

The distinguishing characteristics associated with Japanese manufacturing techniques include an emphasis on designing and redesigning processes to optimize efficiency and a strong commitment to quality.

The manufacturing techniques that Japanese companies practice provide a competitive advantage and outstanding economic performance. The key for success is an understanding of the broad context of manufacturing culture, infrastructure and environment. These sound manufacturing and business techniques created and adopted by leading Japanese manufacturers have turned out to be the secret of their market leadership in many industries.

Following are a few of these concepts, which can help in managing any business set-up in a better way:

  • Kaizen is one such technique, which in Japanese means ‘improve.’ This is commonly recognized as practices focusing on continuous improvement in manufacturing activities, business activities in general, and even life in general, depending on interpretation and usage. By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen helps in eliminating waste.
  • Another management Japanese technique is the 5-S. It is a technique used to establish and maintain quality environment in an organization. It has five elements: Seiri (sorting out useful and frequently used materials and tools from unwanted and rarely used things); Seiton (keeping things in the right place systematically so that searching or movement time is minimized); Seiso (keeping everything around you clean and in a neat manner); Seiketsu (standardizing the above principles in everyday life) and Shitsuke (inculcating good habits and practicing them continuously). The 5-S practice helps everyone in the organization to live a better life.
  • Kanban and ‘Just in Time’ are two other practices in inventory management practices that were pioneered by the Japanese automobile manufacturers, such as Toyota. Quality improvement, on the other hand, is the result of lower proportion of component scrap since the components spend less time in the supply chain.
  • Poka-yoke is a process improvement focused on training of workers for mastering the increasingly complicated tasks to selectively redesign the tasks so they could be more easily and reliably mastered. It involves designing a foolproof process to eliminate the chance of errors.
  • Jidoka is a practice by means of which an individual worker runs several machines simultaneously. Japan thus designs such machines that eliminate both error and the need for constant supervision.
  • Muda is another technique that reduces wasteful activity in service processes. It ensures process efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Mura curiously combines rigidity and flexibility and thus teaches service process improvement.
  • Reducing Muri means reducing physical strain. In services process improvement, Muri applies to convoluted and unnecessary routings, physical transfer, and distances paper files may have to travel for a process to complete.
  • Genchi Gembutsu means going to the actual scene (genchi) and confirming the actual scene (gembutsu). Observation of service processes at the point where it is actually delivered may unearth a host of problems such as lack of training, unnecessary steps, or a number of other areas that would benefit from small but significant process improvement ideas.

This is a glimpse of manufacturing techniques that Japan has so intellectually created and so profoundly practiced in its manufacturing systems that even with no natural resources, it has acquired the status of one of the most industrialized nations. Can we learn from Japan?

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.

Canvassing: Most Inexpensive Marketing


Canvassing can be the most inexpensive marketing method of all. In fact, it can be free, except for the time you devote to it. And if you’re just starting out, time is something you have a great deal of in your inventory. After all, canvassing is merely asking prospective customers for business. During a canvass, which the dictionary defines as “a soliciting of sales,” you should engage in three separate steps.

The first step, called the contact, is when you first meet your prospect. That first impression counts like crazy. So make your contact friendly, upbeat, customer-oriented, honest, and warm. Try to establish a relationship. You need not talk about business if you don’t want to. You can talk about matters personal, about the weather, about a current event—probably about your prospective customer

The second step of canvass is called the presentation. It usually takes longer than the other steps, yet it need take no longer than one minute. During the presentation, you outline the features of your offering and the benefits to be gained from buying from you. Some pro-canvassers say, “The more you tell, the more you sell.” If it is a home security system, your presentation might take fifteen minutes. If it is an offer to wash your prospect’s car, the presentation might take one minute or less.

The third step of a canvass is the most important part. It’s called the close, and it is that magical moment when you complete the sale. That happens when your prospect says, “Yes” or signs on the dotted line or reaches for his or her wallet or merely nods affirmatively. If you are a poor closer, it doesn’t really matter how good you are at the contact and the presentation. You’ve got to be a good closer to make canvassing work at all.

Before there were any other methods of marketing, canvassing existed. In fact, the very first sale in history probably occurred when one caveman asked another, “When to trade me an animal skin for this fruit I picked?” no advertising was necessary. No marketing plan, either. Life has become far better since then. But far more complicated, too.

If you think that canvassing is like door-to-door selling, you’re right only if you want to do it that way. You can canvass by going from door to door. You can do it in residential neighborhoods, and you can do it in commercial neighborhoods. Or, you can presell your canvass by first calling or writing the people you intend to canvass. You have a choice of telling them you’ll be coming around so that they’ll expect you sometime, or actually setting up an appointment. When that happens, it’s more like making a sales presentation than canvassing. For most, canvassing is something done with little or no advance warning. Sure, it helps if you advertise so that the prospective customers have heard of you when you come calling. But you don’t have to advertise. If you make a good contact, a crisp presentation, and a dynastic close, and if you are offering a good value, canvassing may be the only marketing tool you ever need.

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

Cognition in managerial context


The word ‘cognition’ means the ‘act or faculty of knowing.’ Cognition also signifies awareness, comprehension, discernment, insight, intelligence, perception, reasoning and understanding. In change management, cognition implies knowing when to launch change in an organization. This act of knowing is based on the collection and interpretation of data from outside. In other words, the way in which a manager collects and interprets information about the world outside the organization shapes his/her knowledge about change.

 

Specially, managerial cognition in the context of change is the recognition and interpretation of signals from an organization’s environment that denote impending shifts in the environment. If a manager recognizes and interprets the signals accurately, he/she is unlikely to commit this or that errors. On the other hand, both type of errors are more likely when recognition and interpretation are flawed. Then the key question is: what leads to flawed recognition and interpretation of environmental signals? If cognition is the recognition and interpretation of the world outside, what leads to faulty cognition on the part of managers?

 

Although this seems like a simple question, the answer is quite complicated. There are a number of factors that can cause flawed cognition, which can be broadly classified in two categories: (i) organizational factors that can lead to defective cognition and (ii) personal or human factors thaty can cause errors in cognition.

 

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

Organizing your message


All business communicators face the problem of conveying a complicated web of ideas in an understandable fashion. People simply don’t remember dissociated facts and figures, so successful communicators rely on organization to make their messages meaningful.

The definition of a well-organized message varies from country to country. It generally refers to a linear message that proceeds point by point. If you’ve ever received an unorganized message, you’re familiar with the frustration of trying to sort through a muddle of ideas.

By taking a closer look at the letter, you can identify the four most common faults responsible for organization problems:

1) Taking too long to get to the point.

2) Including irrelevant material.

3) Getting ideas mixed up.

4) Leaving out necessary information.

Achieving good organization can be a challenge. Nevertheless, by working with these four common faults, you can establish what good organization means. Four guidelines can help you recognize a well-organized message:

1) Make the subject and purpose clear.

2) Include only information that is related to the subject and purpose.

3) Group the ideas and present them in a logical way.

4) Include all the necessary information.

Each guideline not only helps you communicate clearly and logically, but also ethically—by making sure you state all information as truthfully, honestly, and fairly as 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 contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Plagiarism and Copyright Violation


Plagiarism and copyright violation are complicated issues, especially in modern technical writing.

Plagiarism is the practice of using someone else’s words or ideas without crediting the source. Many organizations treat authorship of internal documents, such as memos and most reports, casually; that is, if the organization asks you to update an internal procedures manual, it expects you to use any material from the existing manual, even if you cannot determine the original author.

Organizations tend to treat the authorship of published documents, such as external manuals or journal articles, more seriously. Although the authors of some kinds of published technical documents are not listed, many documents such as user’s guides do acknowledge their authors. However, what constitutes authorship can be a complicated question, because most large technical documents are produced collaboratively, with several persons contributing text, another doing the graphics, still another reviewing for technical accuracy, and finally someone reviewing for legal concerns. Problems are compounded when a document goes into revision, and parts of original text or graphics are combined with new material.

The best way to determine authorship is to discuss it openly with everyone who contributed to the document. Some persons might deserve to be listed as authors; others, only credited in an acknowledgment section. To prevent changes of plagiarism, the wisest course is to be very conservative: if there is any question about whether to cite a source, cite it.

A related problem involves copyright violation. Copyright law provides legal protection to the author of any document, whether it be published or unpublished, and whether the author be an individual or a corporation. Unfortunately, some companies will take whole sections of another company’s product information or manual, make cosmetic changes, and publish it themselves. This, of course is stealing.

But the difference between stealing and learning from your competitors can be subtle. Words are protected by copyright, but ideas aren’t. Rare is the manufacturer who doesn’t study the competitor’s users’ guides to see how a feature or task is described. Inevitably, a good idea spreads from one document to another, and then to another. If one manual contains a particularly useful kind of troubleshooting guide, pretty soon a lot of others will contain similar ones. Even though this process of imitation tends to produce a dull uniformity, it can improve the overall quality of the document. Under no circumstances, however, should you violate copyright by using another organization’s words.

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