Futures Analysis


Futures analysis allows companies to project future conditions and set future objectives to be achieved. It represents a leap to the future rather than step-by-step progression from  today’s situation forward to the future. It allows managers to assess the future relevance of issues that appear important today and thereby identify important human resource issues.

Futures analysis is an inherent requirements for strategic thinking. It requires defining the forces shaping the future, evaluating alternative future states, setting objectives, and selecting courses of action that will yield needed changes in direction for the enterprise. While incremental change analysis looks at continuities, futures analysis looks at discontinuities.

Futures analysis provides at least a conceptual vision of the future that can help identify and define organizational or competitive requirements. In its simplest forms, futures analysis involves open thinking about future issues and options. Companies use brainstorming, visioning, or modified Delphi analysis (iterative survey of experts) to help define the future human resource issues that need to be addressed. It is an exercise that may involve many participants within the company as well as outside consultants or others.

Futurists, functioning on company planning staffs and as independent consultants, have helped assess the prospective futures in which companies would operate. Their value added appears to lie in their work on demographic technological and environmental futures. In other areas, such as, socio-political changes worldwide, energy availability, economic conditions, or legislation.

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.

Organization Development


Organization development is a planned, managed, and systematic process. Its objective is to change the system, the culture, and the behavior of an organization in order to improve the organization’s effectiveness.

Organization development deals with organizational aspects of the behavioral sciences and links with human resource development and organizational renewal. Many definitions of organization development mention such objectives as helping members of an organization to interact more effectively. It must always be organization-wide, directed towards more participatory management, must provide for integrating the individual’s goals with the organization’s and must be considered an ongoing process.

Much organizational inefficiency can be traced to individuals who are not interested in the organization they belong to. Conversely, a lot of personal unhappiness can be traced to feeling inadequately integrated into the organization one belongs to. The benefit of organization development lies in reconciling the interests of individuals and of the organization and successfully realizing both.

While organization development will not overcome such deficiencies as outdated technology, inadequate financing or hostile external forces, it will enable organizations to cope more effectively with these negative influences.

Organization development is based on the behavior of organizations, but that both can be modified with proper diagnosis and skilful intervention.

Most organization development agents or consultants tend to view their mission as helping client organizations become more participatory and consensus seeking.

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.

 

Product Development Process


The product development process involves analysis of the marketplace, the buyer, the company’s capabilities, and the economic potential of new product ideas. This process may be both expensive and time consuming. To accelerate the process, many companies create multidisciplinary teams so that manufacturing and marketing plans can be developed in tandem while the product is being designed.

  1. Generation and Screening of Ideas: The first step is to come up with ideas that will satisfy unmet needs. A producer may get new product ideas from its own employees or from external consultants, it may simply adapt a competitor’s idea, or it may buy the rights to someone else’s invention. Customers are often the best source of new product ideas.
  2. Business Analysis: A product idea that survives the screening stage is subjected to a business analysis. At this point the question is: Can the company make enough money on the product to justify the investment? To answer this question, companies forecast the probable sales of the product, assuming various pricing strategies. In addition, they estimate the costs associated with various levels of production. Given these projections, the company calculates the potential cash flow and return on investment that will be achieved if the product is introduced.
  3. Prototype Development: The next step is generally to create and test a few samples, or prototypes, of the product, including its packaging. During this stage, the various elements of the marketing mix are put together. In addition, the company evaluates the feasibility of large-scale production and specifies the resources required to bring the product to market.
  4. Product Testing: During the product testing stage, a small group of consumers actually use the product, often in comparison tests with existing products. If the results are good, the next step is test marketing, introducing the product in selected areas of the country and monitoring consumer reactions. Test marketing makes the most sense in cases where the cost of marketing a product far exceeds the cost of developing it.
  5. Commercialization: The final stage of development is commercialization, the large-scale production and distribution of those products that have survived the testing process. This phase requires the coordination of many activities—manufacturing, packaging, distribution, pricing and promotion. A classic mistake is letting marketing get out of phase with production so that the consumer is primed to buy the product before the company can supply it in adequate quantity. A mistake of this sort can be costly, because competitors may be able to jump in quickly. Many companies roll out their new products generally, going from one geographic area to the next. This enables them to spread the costs of launching the product over a longer period and to refine their strategy as the rollout proceeds.

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

Choosing the Network Partners


Although many business schools and consultancies have a public commitment to learning from, and sharing, best practice, this has not stopped some of them, and those who use their services, from jumping of  techniques such as reengineering as if they represent a revelation.

Mindless copying can result in the spread of panaceas, hype and misunderstanding, and gives added momentum to the latest craze. While it may be good news, for those who ride bandwagon, it is not so hot for those whose toes get in the way.

When external suppliers, such as consultants, do get hold of a best practice ‘gem,’ their motivation is often to spread it around their client base as soon as possible. Thus the corporation’s competitive edge can quickly become industry commonplace.

Some consultants receive as good as they give. Companies invite various experts to pitch for business and then ‘do it themselves’ using ther best of the various ideas they have picked up. The learning organization is a voracious and insatiable plunderer and consumer of intellectual capital. The wary choose their network partners with care.

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

The Dynamics of Social Responsibility


The various stakeholders of a firm can be divided into inside stakeholders and outside stakeholders. The insiders are the individuals or groups that are stakeholders or employees of the firm. The outsiders are all the other individuals or groups that the firm’s actions affect. The extremely large and often amorphous set of outsiders makes the general claim that the firm be socially responsible.

Perhaps the thorniest issues faced in defining a company mission are those that pertain to responsibility. The stakeholder approach offers the clearest perspective on such issues. Broadly stated, outsiders often demand that insider’s claims be subordinated to the greater good of the society; that is, to the greater good of the outrsiders. They believe that such issues as pollution, the disposal of solid and liquid wastes, and the conservation of natural resources should be principal consideration in strategic decision making. Also broadly stated, insiders tend to believe that the competing claims of outsiders should be balanced against one another in a way that protects the company mission. For example, they tend to believe that the need of consumers for a product should be balanced against the water pollution resulting from its production if the firm cannot eliminate that pollution entirely and still remain profitable. Some insiders also argue that the claims of society, as expressed in government regulation, provide tax money that can be used to eliminate water pollution and the like if the general public wants this to be done.

The issues are numerous, complex, and contingent on specific situations. Thus, rigid rules of business conduct cannot deal with them. Each firm regardless of size must decide how to meet its perceived social responsibility. While large, well-capitalized companies may have easy access to environmental consultants, this is not an affordable strategy for smaller companies. However, the experience of many small businesses demonstrates that it is feasible to accomplish significant pollution prevention and waste reduction without big expenditures and without hiring consultants. Once a problem area has been identified, a company’s line employees frequently can develop a solution. Other important pollution prevention strategies include changing the materials used or redesigning how operations are bid out. Making pollution prevention a social responsibility can be beneficial to smaller companies. Publicly traded firms also can benefit directly from socially responsible strategies.

Different approaches adopted by different firms reflect differences in competitive position, industry, country, environmental and ecological pressures, and a host of other factors. In other words, they will reflect both situational factors and differing priorities in the acknowledgement of claims. Obviously, winning the loyalty of the growing legions of consumers will require new marketing strategies and new alliances in the 21st Century. Many marketers already have discovered these new marketing realities by adopting strategies called the “4 Es.” 1) make it easy for the consumer to be green, 2) empower consumers with solutions, 3) enlist the support of the consumer, and 4) establish credibility with all publics and help to avoid a backlash.

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

Competitive Forces


Competitive strategy has become an area of specialty among management researchers and consultants. These specialists find that the competition within an industry is constrained by an underlying structure consisting of five powerful driving forces:

a)    Rivalry among existing firms in the industry

b)   The threat of new firms entering the industry

c)    The bargaining power of suppliers to the industry

d)   The bargaining power of the buyers from the industry

e)    The threat of substitute products or services

The underlying forces determine the profit margins that are characteristic of the industry. They limit the prospects for greater than normal profit margins. They influence the intensity of the competition and the long-term probable outcome of the competition. To entrepreneurs who are not familiar with these forces represent fate.

We often attribute the success of an entrepreneurial venture to its entrepreneur. We shouldn’t detract from the importance of the leader in a new venture, but it is very important to recognize that there are other forces that contribute to the success. A super individual with a good product entering an industry with an adverse underlying structure may have little success. A lessor individual entering an industry with a more favorable structure may succeed despite mistakes and misjudgments.

There may be many factors that influence a business firm’s performance in the short term. These factors are transient such as economic conditions, material shortages or strikes. In the long term, however, the five underlying structural forces determine the potential returns achievable by the industry. The various firms competing within an industry are thereby limited in their potential profit margins and returns on investment.

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

Expertise


Whaereas intelligence is a feature attributable to most people, expertise is a scarcer commodity. This scarcity gives expertise its value and makes attempting to capture expertise worthwhile. The skills needed to process a company’s payroll would not, for example, be considered expertise. Although it may make sense to program this task, the ability to process payroll is not rare. Certain areas of expertise have more practical value than others. For example, expertise in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics may be scarce but is of less practical value than expertise in strategic management or auditing.

 The difficulty in acquiring expertise is what usually contributes to its scarcity. Expertise must be obtained from some source (e.g., an expert). Most companies make use of expertise either by acquiring it temporarily in the form of consultants or by sending a seasoned employee from site to site.

 One of the problem in defining expertise is understanding exactly what knowledge the expert has acquired and how it can be used. Expertise can be the ability to interpet Egyptian hieroglyphics, diagnose certain diseases, or formulate a strategic plan. For computers to perform specific tasks, they must be programmed to stimulate features of expertise. The goal of an expert systems development poject is to understand and embed scarce expertise in the computer program and use it to solve specific problems.

 The first question that must be answered concerns where to find the required expertise. The time spent answering this question, acquiring the relevant knowledge, and then encoding it in a program constitutes the bulk of the development effort.

 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

How Losers Operate?


Losers tend to stick with a particular and hierarchical model of operation. The structure is set out in organization charts. There are probably job descriptions for most positions, and how the organization operate is set out in a physical or electronic manual. Preparing these and understanding them takes time. Hence people are reluctant to make changes that might involve altering diagrams, updating files and reprinting documents. Some people become complacent. They believe they have discovered or created a formula for continuing business success. They also swear by particular approaches and enshrine them in standard processes and procedures. The framework solidifies.

 Many losers have a weakness for single solutions, panaceas and fads. They believe that this management approach, that technology or a particular consultant’s methodology will provide and answer and solve their problems. While struggling to make a chosen course of action work they fail to consider alternative options. They look themselves in.

 Employees who can be trusted to operate in approved ways and observe standard practice are promoted. After some time corporate structures, processes, systems and mindsets become rigid and inflexible. Subject them to increasing stress and they first creak and groan, and then snap. Increase workloads and transaction flows and people in ‘loser’ organizations struggle to cope. Rather than operate in new ways or change processes they endeavor to work harder, faster and for longer hours. They quickly become overloaded and break down. Work-life balance is an issue in these companies because staff suffer the pressures without enjoying any of the compensating benefits.

 There are often alternative ways of achieving the same objective. Boats of many types and sizes may be capable of making the same journey, although imposing very different demands upon their crews. The craft chosen will reflect their preferences and aspirations. There may also be alternative routes to the same destination.

 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

Use Project Management


Management is usually viewed as continuous process that lasts without a break for the whole of your organization’s life. But some jobs are clearly projects; they do a specific job, have a distinct beginning and end and a fixed duration. When the job is done, the project is finished.

 

People have developed special approaches to project management. A project manager often has overall control and can have very wide-ranging responsibilities. The project team does not follow the usual ‘line of authority,’ but is seconded from line functions. This gives a matrix structure where people have divided responsibilities. The control of projects is made easier by dividing them into phases running from conceptual design through to termination. There are special methods for planning projects.

 

Managers have increasingly realized that they can use these methods in their everyday work. You probably find that a lot of your work is not continuous, but consists of a series of projects. Consultants work for different clients, software houses work on different packages, marketing departments run a series of promotions.

 

Project management can bring a lot of advantages to your work. It gives the expected times for some key activities, and the computer automatically prints schedules for activities and all resources. More generally, project teams have the benefits of:

  • Using management methods that recognize the nature of projects;
  • Solving problems quickly, as the right people are assembled to concentrate on a solution.
  • Spreading expertise around the organization, as team members move on to new projects and share their experiences;
  • Using resources efficiently, as they are released to other projects when not needed;
  • Tightly controlling operations, with constant feedback on progress.

 This does not mean, of course, that project management is better than continuous management. But project management does give an additional set of management tools that you might find useful.

 

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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