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.

Travel Stress


We travel to get to work, we travel during our work, and we travel to get to distant meetings. Travel comes in all forms: short and long timeframes and short and long distances. For most people, the commonest hurdle is the daily grind to and from work. This is most acute in large cities. The problems are truly international, but some of the ugliest and best-studied traffic jams are now everywhere.

The levels of stress that this brings are extremely significant. For those who handle it poorly, it can be damaging  to their health, and may even endanger the lives of others. Medically, we know that stress mechanisms all fire at once when the body identifies a crisis. Adrenaline pours out, the stomach shuts down, the pulse races, and the hair stands up on end. The blood pressure soars, muscles clench in spasms around the shoulder tips and jaw,  and primal aggressions rise, ready for fight or flight.

With immediate flight brings out of the question, more and more frustrated drivers are turning to the fight option—either inside their cars as they tip at the heels of slower drivers, or outside their cars, where they may stomp up and beat a dent into the roof of an offending vehicle. Even the mild and polite become aggressive when they strap themselves into their bumper cars to drive to work. This means they usually arrive late, enraged and spent before they even start to face the day’s stresses on the job.

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.

Acute Corporate Stress


Acute corporate stress is the most easily diagnosed. Something is clearly wrong and this will be evident in its financial performance. In the worst cases, a type of organizational schizophrenia takes hold, with conflicting decision making criteria and behavior very much in evidence.

Many small organizations are run by two partners that hardly converse despite spitting distance of each other, both ordering the same people to do different things. There are also giant PLCs and governments where supposed colleagues direct whole divisions as if they were private armies in pursuit of incongruent goals.

The good news in these situations is that this type of crisis is hard to ignore, that there is little alternative to taking action and that there are several courses of action that are proven to help.

The bad news is that if action is not taken the organization is on a fast track of failure.

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.

 

Changing Company’s Culture


A short list of mechanisms leaders can use to establish, embed, and reinforce organizational culture. There are five:

  1. Make it clear to your employees what you pay attention to, measure, and control.
  2. React appropriately to critical incidents and organizational crises.
  3. Deliberately role model, teach, and coach the values you want to emphasize.
  4. Communicate your priorities by the way you allocate rewards and status.
  5. Make your HR procedures and criteria consistent with the values you espouse.

Don’t stop there. Use secondary mechanisms—such as redesigning physical space—to further reinforce the desired cultural changes. These secondary mechanisms are just that secondary, because they work only if they are consistent with the five primary mechanisms:

  1. What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control
  2. Leader reactions to critical incidents and organizational crises
  3. Deliberate role modeling, teaching and coaching
  4. Criteria for allocation of rewards and status
  5. Criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion, retirement, and communication.

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.

Principles of Crisis Management


What does one do when a crisis comes? There are some principles, not rules that can be useful to managers facing a crisis:

Define the real problem: Crises tend to face managers to think short term and focus on the narrow problem at hand. The crisis management team should ask several reflective questions: What would constitute a good job in managing this crisis? What can we accomplish? What is impossible?

Set Goals and Define the Crisis Strategy in Light of Those Goals: The urge to act first, think later is hand to resist when facing a crisis. The better the course is to have some managers actively thinking about the goals—What do we want to accomplish? How do we want to be perceived by the media? By our shareholders? By our employees and customers?

Manage the flow of Information: Experts advise managers to tell the story their way, consistently, and frequently. Because electronic media repeat crisis stories quite frequently in a typical news day, managers have an opportunity to correct errors and should not permit an erroneous statement to stand unchallenged.

Adopt a Team Approach: It is important to have one spokesperson designated at the outset and available to act on the company’s behalf immediately. Successful companies have thought in advance about the skills each crisis team should possess. Legal, media, and government relations skills are essential in many crisis situations.

Plan for the worst case: A crisis always has the potential to worsen, and managers need to anticipate the worst case possibility. It is tempting to assume a crisis will pass and the world will return to normal. It is wise to prepare for the worst.

Plan on the Situation Getting Worse: By doing so, an organization can begin to see ahead and create contingency plans for communicating with key stakeholders, deploying resources, and organizing other companies and people for action.

Follow up after the Crisis is Over: Many contacts with stakeholders occur during a crisis. A company can restore its image and reputation by dedicated follow-up to stakeholders.

Use Technology: Information technology can be a powerful aid to a company facing a crisis and needing to communicate with stakeholders. A company should measure the effectiveness of communication message through polling, surveys, and focus-group interviews.

Don’t Give up: As bad as it can be for an organization, a crisis rarely destroys a well-managed business. Leadership is vital if an organization’s internal and external stakeholders are to believe that there is a bright future beyond the crisis.

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 New Work of Leaders


Our traditional view of leaders—as special people who set the direction, make key decisions, and energize the troops—is deeply rooted in an individualistic and nonsystematic worldview. Especially in the West, leaders are heroes—great men (and occasionally women) who rise to the fore in times of crisis. So long as such myths prevail, they reinforce a focus on short-term events and charismatic heroes rather than on systematic forces and collective learning.

Leadership in learning organizations centers on subtler and ultimately more important work. In a learning organization, leaders’ roles differ dramatically from that of the charismatic decision-maker. Leaders are designers, teachers, and stewards. These roles require new skills: the ability to build shared vision, to bring to the surface and challenge prevailing mental models, and to foster more systematic patterns of thinking. Leaders are responsible for building organizations where people are continually expanding their capabilities to shape their future—that is, leaders are responsible for learning.

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.

Decision-making in Crisis Situations


Corporate transformation often occur in situations of crisis. Classic studies of crisis decision making have highlighted the tendency to focus on the short term, and to concentrate upon fewer options, when the ‘going gets tough.’ There is a danger that a sense of balance and perspective might be lost just when it is most needed.

Members of board can experience a tension between the requirement to become more deeply involved in order to demonstrate commitment, and the desirability of maintaining a distance in order to preserve a degree of independence and objectivity. A corporate change program can increase this schizophrenic pressure upon the individual director.

In situations of crisis there is a tendency to cut out information and individuals who do not fit, and to concentrate power in the hands of a smaller group of people. This prospect can pose problems for directors who have genuinely reservations which they feel duly bound to express.

A chairman should think twice before ‘wielding the knife’. It is important to probe the reasons for hesitency. Enthusiasm could be the product of sycophancy, and caution the result of thought. Team players are not those who just go along without thinking. Some colleagues are cautious. They are not obstructive. They are realistic.

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

Crisis Communication


One of the most visible functions of the PR department is to help management plan for and respond to crisis. A good PR professional looks for potentil problems, constantly scans the business environment, then alerts management to the implications of such problems, and suggests the best course of action.

Disasters of earthquake proportions fall into the category of public relations nightmares created by sudden , violent accidents. Plane crashes, oil spills, chemical leaks, and product defects all belong to this group. The other type of crisis is the sort that builds slowly and occurs because of a company’s conscious, but ill-founded, decisions.

Whn disaster strikes , a defensive posture is generally counterproductive. The best course is to be proactive, admit your mistakes and apologize.

When disaster hits most companies respond, to some degree, through their public relations department, but they often ignore the audience that is likely to be hit hardest—employees. To minimize the impact of any crisis on employees, be sure to communicate honestly, openly, and often, actively encourage employees to share their concerns, and use caution when sharing personal opinions.

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

Leveraging better Payment Terms


Negotiating better payment terms is always easier if a company has some bargaining chips. The party with the most to lose or the most to gain is always on the defensive; therefore, the secret to successful negotiating is to develop leverage that forces the other party into one or the other of these positions. Other than not meeting payroll, only two conditions might create circumstances more detrimental to a company on the brink of failure than to a creator: (1) being evicted from the building that houses the business, and (2) not receiving critical materials and services to keep the business going.

 

Not much can be done about either situation. A business must be housed, and it must have materials and services to make and sell products. That’s why landlords and critical suppliers top the payment priority list. Some leverage can be achieved, however. Most lessors would rather work out an extended payment arrangement than go to the expense and aggravation of a formal eviction. As long as the renter’s market holds, deferring rent payments for at least several months should be a real possibility. That’s not a permanent solution, but it does provide some breathing space.

 

It might be possible to leverage critical suppliers to gain better terms. The threat to go to a competitor usually brings even the most recalcitrant supplier to terms. In most cases, a supplier has more to lose (the overdue amounts plus legal costs to sue) or gain (future sales) than a debtor company does. At least making suppliers think that’s the case is good negotiating ploy.

 

Assuming that you have taken reasonable precautions to safeguard your personal assets, the worst thing that can happen is that you will be forced to liquidate the business. Granted, this can be a blow to any entrepreneur’s ego. It might also reduce personal income for a while, however, once the liquidation is over, you can always begin again. As long as creditors believe that they have the most to lose, you’re in driver’s seat. The ultimate creditors’ threat is to force the company into bankruptcy. By making it clear that this won’t hurt and that other plans for the future are in the works anyway, such leverage vanishes abruptly.

 

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

Characteristics of Managerial Creativity


The creative manager must be a creative human and an effective manager. He/she tends to be characterized by following group of traits:

1) Hunger for knowing curiosity, constant questioning; strong interest in stimulating ideas, theories, and philosophies, always wanting to know the ‘how’ and ‘why of things; strong interest in trying to understand people’s motives and behavior.

2) Sensitivity responsiveness to literature, arts and other fine and delicate things; interest in meeting interesting and sensitive persons; empathy for the suffering; responsiveness to beauty and elegance.

3) Complexity intuitively finding correct solutions; being a visionary; having odd, even conflicting ideas; moodiness.

4) Venturing calculated risk-taking; preference for starting own ventures; aiming big; striking out in one’s own.

5) Independence and courage questions the status quo or established order; sticking to core convictions; listens to experts but makes up own mind; clear and forceful assertion of feelings and viewpoints.

6) Reality contact initiative taking in finding out operating constraints; confidence in managing crisis; quick adjustment to new challenges and information; grip on reality despite fantasying.

7) Self-sufficiency absorbed in challenging tasks; confident in operating in alien situations; tendency to take on tough tasks; persistence in getting ventures accomplished.

The creative manager operates in a fairly tightly regulated system in which creativity failures may be penalized; creativity needs to be directed towards organizational requirements; almost all creative initiatives require approval from superiors and acceptance by colleagues and subordinates to succeed; the cynical need to be won over; opposition of vested interests to these initiatives needs to be neutralized; dedicated teams need to be developed to execute creative initiatives; creative initiatives need to confirm to evaluate and control mechanisms of the organization; changes and creative initiatives need to be synergized for maximum impact—so on and on.

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