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.

Risks: Building Blocks of Success


A person’s confidence is best measured by his or her willingness to take risks. Fear is best reflected by the degree to which a person seeks to avoid risk. The old saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” will always be true. Risk, the possibility of loss, is a necessary to success as air is to life.

Imagine what would happen if everyone decided to try to live 100 percent risk-free:

  • No farmer would plant a crop because there might be too much rain or too little. Or the market price for the grain might collapse.
  • No one would start a business because comptition might cause it to fail.
  • No television programs would be produced because there might be too few viewers to attract advertisers.
  • Investors would not put money into new construction, into oil well exploration, and into new ventures.
  • Artists and authors would stop work because people might reject their activity,

To be completely secure, people would take their money out of banks (the banks may fail), hoard food (there may be an atomic war), refuse to drive cars (I may have an accident), and patients in hospitals would refuse blood transfusions (the blood may be contaminated). A goal of 100 percent security would almost overnight destroy our economy.

To avoid risk completely, no one would apply for a job (you may not get it), submit a poem to a literary journal (it may be rejected), speak up in a meeting (you may be laughed at), or ask for an order (the prospect may say No).

Here is an important point: Success-oriented people take risks and sometimes the risks turn out to be losses. Thirty-seven percent of today’s millionaires went broke after accumulating wealth. But they came back to win. No investor is always “right,” and people who build shopping centers, rersidential neighborhoods, and office buildings sometimes lose money. In the oil drilling business, a majority of wells turn out to be dry holes.

How we react to defeat is the key. You have heard people who have failed in a job or in a business of their own say, “I’ve had it. Never again!”

At times, we all feel like giving up. And if we’re not careful, we will give up. Pressure from peers to surrender can be powerful. They tell you, “Look, you tried. The plan didn’t work. Why beat your head against a wall? Don’t feel bad. Most people who try something new fail.”

These people – your peers and “friends” – are often glad to see you surrender. It’s disappointing but it’s true. They don’t have the courage to do something on their own. If they see you fail, they feel better about themselves; you are one of them – another mediocrity.

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

Defeating Fear with Preparation


Preparation helps defeat fear. Winning prizefighters prepare for a bout by selecting a sparring partner who has a boxing style similar to their opponent.

A football coach helps defeat fear and builds team confidence through exhaustive preparation. Films of the other opposing team in action are reviewed, “special” plays are practiced over and over again, and restrictions are placed on players’ activities all because, in an even contest, confidence is the deciding factor and confidence comes from preparation.

People are afraid of selling more than any other occupation. And again, preparation is a key to overcoming the near paralysis people have in making a sales presentation. People fear looking stupid, hearing the prospect say “No,” being embarrassed, forgetting what they want to say about the product, asking for the order, and not making the sale.

The only way to gain the high level confidence needed to sell successfully is preparation. And preparation is knowledge—knowledge of what you sell, knowledge of how your product will help the prospect or client, and knowledge of the person you’re selling.

Know your product or service. Know exactly what it can do for the prospect. Be so well prepared you can answer any question that comes up. Know construction, desirability and guarantees. Know the limitations, when not to use the product.

Know how your product or service will help your prospect. Your customer is the law of self-interest in action. As a salesman makes a presentation, the customer is asking, “How does this relate to my problem? How would it benefit me?”

The third confidence builder is knowledge of the prospect. You don’t sell to machines, you sell only to people. Just as you feel confident and have no fear when you’re around people you know well, you’ll have confidence around prospects when you know more about their personal interests, personality, personal responsibilities, or responsibilities, and family.

To act confidently in a sales situation, prepare yourself with knowledge of what you sell, how it will benefit he prospect, and who the prospect is. But more than knowledge, practice is required to gain confidence needed in selling. Practice your presentation with people who act the role of a customer. Practice before a mirror, or better yet, film yourself on a video camera. Watch your mannerisms, list to your voice, and observe your expressions.

You’ll destroy fear and build confidence in selling through preparation. In any activity, confidence comes in direct proportion to preparation.

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

Advertising and Advertisements


Advertising today is a worldwide phenomenon. It is important to recognize that many advertisers use advertisements for many purposes with many different possible effects. For example, within a given country it is common to find what might be considered highly fanciful advertising for consumer goods such as toothpaste, detergents, or soft drinks, and highly technical messages dealing with construction equipment, medical supplies, or computer services. The advertisers themselves can include huge multinational firms, special interest groups, local shopkeepers, and individuals. Their intents can range from altering behavior to affecting the way people think about a particular social or economic position. The results of their efforts can range from enormously influential to a waste of the advertiser’s money. It is not, then, a subject that lends itself to oversimplification.

 

When you think about “advertising,” you probably think in terms of specific advertisements. To begin there, then, advertisements can be recognized as paid, non-personal communication forms used with persuasive intent by identified sources through various media.

 

As paid communication forms they are different from common varieties of publicity (e.g., a press release) or “public relations” e.g., a news conference), which are often covered by the media without charge. By non-personal they are distinguished from forms of personal salesmanship occurring in business establishments or door-to-door. The advertiser is identified, which again sets this form of persuasive communication apart from various types of promotion and publicity in the form of “news” or “feature” material often carried by the media, but supplied by a particular source whose intent is often persuasive.

 

Advertisements are most commonly associated with the mass media of newspapers, magazines, cinema, television, and radio, although they frequently flourish in other forms such as billboards, posters, and direct mail as well. And, finally, advertisements are overwhelmingly used with persuasive intent. That is, the advertisers are striving to alter our behavior and/or levels of awareness, knowledge, attitude, and so on in a manner that would be beneficial to them.

 

These are some of the most obvious characteristics of advertisements, the end product of much that is advertising.

 

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

Training and Development


Mr. President, and Director Training:

Spring has arrived with flowers. The buds have reappeared on bare branches again. Indeed! The March winds are the morning yawn of the year.

All and every little thing tell us
That once again ’tis Spring

Please accept my best wishes for a bright and beautiful season.

 

This time spring has brought along the advent of cricket season. And the current cricket series with India has caused a sort of fever to cricket lovers. Today is a crucial day for all of us. An important and decisive match between traditional rival teams is about to start and we are here participating in a learning exercise. You are not alone missing the glimpses of the match. My heart also joins the curious thumping of your heartbeat.

 

I have the opportunity to talk to you, the learned managers under the new system of local government, and I will avail it with honor talking relevant or maybe some irrelevant things.

 

Overtly or covertly, the district government system is new and complex. Its managers face requirements that are different from their federal, provincial, or private sector counterparts. Because of the complexity and range of those requirements, it is important for DDOs to understand the requirements specific to the district.

 

Friends! We use management and professional development to refer to those processes directed towards equipping professional managers with the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to achieve administrative objectives both now and in the future.

 

Any human development must be aligned with the entity’s mission and strategic goals in order that, through enhancing the skills, knowledge, learning ability and enthusiasm of people at every level, there will be continuous organizational and individual growth.

 

The perspectives of management and professional development are interpreted here as including the terms education, learning, training, and development which are seen as an integral part of the wider professional development framework.

 

I have the reason to believe, my dear officers, that if the training and development of managers of any department is not accorded high priority, if training is not seen as a vital component in the realization of government policies, then it is hard to accept that we have committed ourselves to management and professional development.

 

Those departments where there is a chronic under-investment in management and professional development that is the prime reason for the poor performance of the financial management or economy at large. The critique that can be constructed is disturbingly pervasive. At the macro level the education and training infrastructure, particularly when subjected to international comparisons is the major basis for consistently failing to address the needs of economic development. Training initiatives failing to provide consistent direction; concentrating on the certainties of vocational relevance rather than longer-term knowledge demands relevant to an imperfect future, and, simply, a lack of overall investment.

 

At the micro level, despite the relevance placed on bureaucratic system by successive governments, the practice of individual departments is similarly disturbing. Under-investment in management and professional development, whether measured in terms of budgets or training days, is regularly reported. All too frequently management and professional development fails to be regarded as a managerial priority or something that should be fully integrated through a learning culture into everyday practice. The traditional practice of public service, dominance of accountancy traditions and short-term-ism that characterize our bureaucratic inheritance arguably provide infertile conditions for what is essentially a long-term commitment.

 

While acknowledging the pessimistic construction that I have made, I would argue that investment in management and professional development could play a key role in initiating and facilitating change. You can thus adapt to whatever comes along and to take advantage of it, turning threats into challenges, and rising to these challenges in ways that produce increased benefit to the government and employees.

 

If I were to prescribe one process in the training of men, which is fundamental to success in any direction, it would be thoroughgoing training in the habit of accurate observation. It is a habit which every one of us should be seeking ever more to perfect.

 

All organizations, entities, and departments require some form of organizational structure to implement their strategies. Principally, structures are changed when they no longer provide the coordination, control, and direction managers, and entities require implementing strategies successfully. The ineffectiveness of structure typically results from increases in department’s revenues and levels of diversification. In particular, the formulation of strategies involving greater levels of diversification demands structural change to match each strategy. Some strategies require elaborate structures and strategic control, while others focus on financial control.

 

Allow me to briefly converse about strategic leadership. If you are a strategic leader, you have the ability to anticipate, maintain flexibility, and empower others to create strategic change as necessary. Multifunctional in nature, strategic leadership involves managing through others, managing an organization rather than a functional subunit, and coping with change that seems to be increasing exponentially in the current administrative landscape. Because of the complexity and global nature of this landscape, as a strategic leader, you must learn how to influence human behavior effectively in an uncertain environment. By word or by personal example, and through your ability to envision the future, as effective strategic leader you can meaningfully influence the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings of those with whom you work. The ability to manage human capital may be the most critical of your leadership skills.

 

From now on, in the 21st century, many managers working in government across country will be challenged to alter their mind-sets to cope with the rapid and complex changes occurring in the global economy.

 

A managerial mind-set is the set of assumptions, premises, and accepted wisdom that bounds—or frames—a manager’s understanding of the department and the core competencies it uses in the pursuit of strategic role. Your continuous success depends on your willingness to challenge continually your managerial frames.

 

Today competition means not product versus product, company versus company, or department versus department. It is a case of mindset versus mindset, managerial frame versus managerial frame. Competing on the basis of mindsets demands that strategic leaders learn how to deal with diverse and cognitively complex situations. One of the most challenging changes is overcoming your own successful mindset.

 

As effective leaders you should always be willing to make candid and courageous, yet pragmatic decisions—decisions that may be difficult, but necessary in light of internal and external conditions. You should solicit corrective feedback from peers, superiors, and employees about the value of your difficult decisions. Unwillingness to accept feedback may be key reason talented executives fail. This highlights the need for you to solicit feedback consistently from those affected by your decisions.

 

Because strategic leadership is a requirement of strategic success, and because departments may be poorly led and over-managed, working in the 21st century competitive landscape you are challenged to develop effective strategic leaders.

 

At district level you are the top administrative managers. And top-level mangers are an important resource for departments seeking to formulate and implement strategies effectively. A key reason for this is that the strategic decisions made by top managers influence how the department is designed and whether goals will be achieved. Thus, a critical element of your organizational success is having a team with superior managerial skills.

 

You often use your discretion (or latitude for action) when making strategic decisions, including those concerned with the effective implementation of strategies. You must therefore be action oriented: thus, the decisions that you make should spur the department to action.

 

Since you are top executives, you have a major effect on your department’s culture. Your values are critical in shaping your department’s cultural values. Accordingly, you have an important effect on organizational activities and performance. The significance of this effect should not be underestimated. Permit me to remind you that acquiring of culture is the development of an avid hunger for knowledge and beauty.

 

 

Add innovation and creativity in all your endeavors. It will certainly pay off. Effective leaders focus their work on the key issues that ultimately shape department’s ability to perform effectively.

 

And in the words of Charles de Gaulle, “Every man of action has a strong dose of egotism, pride, hardness, and cunning. But all those things will be forgiving him, indeed, they will be regarded as high qualities, if he can make them the means to achieve great ends.” To get others to come into your ways of thinking, you must go over to theirs; and it is necessary to follow, in order to lead.

 

While concluding, let me ask: do you know how do geniuses come up with ideas? What is common to the thinking style that produced “Mona Lisa,” as well as the one that spawned the theory of relativity? What characterizes the thinking strategies of the Einsteins, Edisons, da Vincis, Darwins, Picassos, Michelangelos, Galileos, Freuds, and Mozarts of history? What can we learn from them?

 

“Much learning does not teach man to have intelligence.”

This is the quotation from the philosopher Heraclitus, who spanned the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Twenty-five hundred years later, he’s still right. You might spend most of your life going to school, reading, looking up facts, acquiring information, and memorizing it. But, although you’ll become more informed, in the end it won’t make you any smarter. Is a reference library smart? Is a computer with a vast storehouse of voluminous data smart? Is the simple act of digesting and then disgorging information either smart or impressive? My answer is simple: “No.”

 

Anyway, I hereby formally inaugurate this training course.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Thank you for listening.

God bless you!

 

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 Financing


Project Financing (PF) has emerged as an innovative and timely financing technique and is being used in many high-profile infrastructure projects. Employing a carefully engineered financing mix, it is used to fund large-scale projects, from communications, to telecommunications, and power to energy projects. It is a preferred alternative today. It will be foremost option of future.

PF holds great promise, which is just beginning to be realized as a means of financing projects designed to help meet the enormous infrastructure needs that exist in a developing countries.

Most infrastructure projects in developing countries are being funded by exchequer and thus in nearly all cases the construction of much desired projects are delayed due to lacking funds and deficient resources. Particularly when local governments are functioning full swing developing countries need to consider PF as a preferred choice.

PF can be arranged when a particular facility or a related set of assets is capable of functioning profitably as an independent economic unit. City governments (sponsors) of such a unit may find it advantageous to form a new legal entity to construct, own, and operate the project. If sufficient profit is predicted, the project organization can finance construction of the project on a project basis, which involves the issuance of equity securities (generally to the sponsors of the project) and of debt securities that are designed to be spell-liquidating from the revenues derived from project operations.

The intricacies of PF are formidable, and can easily be misunderstood and consequently, misused. While PF structures share certain common features, by necessity, they require tailoring the package to the particular circumstances of the project. That is where both the benefits and the challenges lie.

What distinguishes PF from conventional direct financing is that in PF, the project is a “distinct legal entity” and the financing is tailored to the cash flow characteristics of the project assets. Such a structure can yield a more efficient allocation of risks and returns than conventional financing, but careful financial engineering is critical.

It is a form of asset-based financial engineering. It is asset-based because each financing is tailored around a specific asset or related pool of assets. It involves financial engineering because, in so many cases, the financing structure cannot simply be copied from some other project. Rather, it must be crafted specifically for the project at hand.

PF is the raising of funds to finance an economically separable capital investment project in which the providers of the funds look primarily to the cash flow from the project at the source of funds to service their loans and provide the return and a return on their equity invested in the project. The terms of the debt and equity securities are tailored to the cash flow characteristics of the project. For their security, the project debt securities depend, at least partly, on the profitability of the project and on the collateral value of the project’s assets.

PF is not a means of raising funds to finance a project that is so weak economically that it may not be able to service its debt or provide an acceptable rate of return to equity investors. In other words, it is not a means of financing a project that cannot be financed on a conventional basis.

At the center is a discrete asset, a separate facility, or a related set of assets that has a specific purpose. This can include trash collecting trucks, toll roads, water supply and sewer projects, or some other item of infrastructure. This facility or group of assets must be capable of standing alone as an independent economic unit. The operations, supported by a variety of contractual agreements, must be organized so that the project has the unquestioned ability to generate sufficient cash flow to repay its debts.

PF can be advantageous to Pakistan when it has a valuable resource deposit, other responsible parties would like to develop the deposit, and it lacks the financial resources to proceed with the project on its own.

Commercial banks and life insurance companies have traditionally been the principal sources of debt for large projects. In the typical financing structure, commercial banks would provide construction financing on a floating rate basis, and life insurance companies would then provide “permanent financing” on a fixed rate basis by refinancing the bank loans following project completion. For infrastructure projects have become a high priority, commercial banks, having adjusted to the tighter capital standards, have expanded their role in PF. They advise as well as lend.

Multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank and IDB, and various agencies, such as Eximbank and OPIC, have also stepped up their funding of private infrastructure projects. Developing countries’ capital markets can also be a useful source of funds. Raising funds locally can reduce a project’s political risk exposure.

Most recently, through the financing of hundreds of independent power projects, it has become evident that PF is suitable for relatively low-risk projects that involve standardized nonproprietary technology.

PF has attracted growing interest as a means of obtaining capital. Its potential is perhaps greatest for the many large infrastructure capital investment projects that are on the drawing boards of many local governments. The projects are large and expensive, and the risks are great. But the potential benefits are enormous. Project financing could be the answer to the financial needs of such local governments.

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