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.

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International Codes of Environmental Conduct


A number of business organizations have developed codes of environmental conduct. Among the most important ones are the following:

  • International Chamber of Commerce (ICC): The ICC developed the Business Center for Sustainable Development, 16 principles that identify key elements of environmental leadership and call on companies to recognize environmental management as among their highest corporate priorities.
  • Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI): A group of over 20 companies dedicated to fostering environmental excellence, GEMI developed several environmental self assessment programs, including one that helps firms assess their progress in meeting the goals of the Business Center for Sustainable Development.
  • Keidanren: This major Japanese industry association has published a  Global Environmental Charter that sets out a code of environmental behavior that calls on its members to be “good corporate citizens.”
  • Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA): The U.S. based industry association developed Responsible Care: A Public Commitment, which commits its member-companies to a code of management practices, focusing on process safety, community awareness, pollution prevention, safe distribution, employee health and safety, and product stewardship. The group is working for the international adoption of these principles.
  • CERES Principles: These are 10 voluntary standards developed by the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible economies that commit signatory firms to protection of the biosphere, sustainable use of natural resources, energy conservation, risk reduction, and other environmental goals.
  • International Organization for Standards (ISO): ISO 14000 is a series of voluntary standards introduced in 1966 by the ISO, an international group based in Geneva, Switzerland, that permit companies to be certified as meeting global environmental performance standards.

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.

Learning from Market Leaders


  • Customer Market: We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to mothers, and all others who use our products and services. (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Product Service: AMAX’s principle products are molybdenum, coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, petroleum and natural gas, potash, phosphate, nickel, tungsten, silver, gold, and magnesium (AMAX)
  • Geographic Domain: We are dedicated to total success of Corning Glass Works as a worldwide competitor (Coming Glass)
  • Technology: Control Data is in the business of applying micro-electronics and computer technology in two general areas: computer-related hardware and computing-enhancing services, which include computation, information, education, and finance. (Control Data)
  • Concern for Survival: In this respect, the company will conduct its operation prudently, and will provide the profits and growth which will assure Hoover’s ultimate success. (Hoover Universal)
  • Philosophy: We are committed to improve health care throughout the world. (Baxter Travenol)
  • Self Concept: Hoover’s universal  is a diversified, multi-industry corporation with strong manufacturing capabilities, entrepreneurial policies, and individual business unit autonomy. (Hoover Universal)
  • Concern for Public Image: Also, we must be responsive to the broader concerns of the public, including especially the general desire for improvement in the quality of life, equal opportunity for all, and the constructive use of natural resources. (Sun Company)

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.

Personality Cults


In the absence of an agreed working culture the leaders of an organization will use their own personalities to dedicate the way relationships are handled in their own area of influence.

The relative power and influence of each member of the leadership team will determine the relative strength of their cultural influence. Whatever the relative balance, however, you can be absolutely certain that this will create confusion, waste and stress.

The result will be a cult personality with the more dominant leaders commanding more followers, resulting in a split working culture within the organization.

The effect of this can be seen in the way organizations respond differently to sales enquiries than to service enquiries.

How many times you  have been left to wonder alone in a shop because a sales assistant is suddenly needed elsewhere when they discover that you are only enquiring and not intending to buy then and there?

It is interesting to note that when individual people suffer from a split or multiple personality they are usually diagnosed as schizophrenic  and receive the benefit of medical help. When organizations suffer from a split or multiple culture, it is usually accepted as normal.

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.

Managing for Customer Satisfaction


If you are working in a business that is focused and dedicated to customer satisfaction you cannot manage it in the same way as an ordinary or traditional business – it just doesn’t work. Organizations have found this to their cost. Implementing policies without changing the organization first is self-defeating. The organization will defeat change as soundly as day follows night. However, if you change the organization and the way people are managed and led and you have developed the policies, ideas, procedures, standards and systems will evolve rapidly and effectively.

The first major change has to be  the ritual burning and demolition of the standard organization chart. Customers, suppliers and employees cannot be forced to work through traditional top down hierarchical management systems. Not only does it give people the wrong feeling, it actually just doesn’t work. It’s not that it ever worked particularly well anyway, it was just the thing that everyone used when they put together a large organization.

Today’s manager has to be much more of a communicator than a dictator. They also have to be much more of a facilitator than a policy determinator. People’s aspirations have changed, just as the customers have. They need to be treated in a way that encourages them, empowers them and enthuses them to deliver the best for their customers.

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.

Realigning the Organization


Organization or reorganization schemes have been proposed ad nauseam as solutions to many business problems. As a general rule, organizational changes, especially those that simply reshuffle the same names into different boxes on the organization chart, don’t improve anything. This does not mean suggesting some new organization approach that is better suited for these turbulent times. However, many organizations are too top-heavy, over-structured, and over-satisfied to be responsive to market needs and too costly to be competitive. The structure and staffing of any organization must be rigorously challenged to ensure it is really geared to accomplish the fundamental objectives of the business in as cost-effective a manner as possible. An honest evaluation of the answers to the following critical questions will provide a good function for action.

a)        Is the organization structured to serve markets or simply to manage functions and sell products? Have priority markets been identified? Does someone have primary responsibility for ensuring that the product/service package is tailored to each target market? Do mechanisms exist to ensure cross-markets? Is there any kind of a market focus in the selling organization?

b)        Are there enough discrete profit centers? Do enough managers feel the burden of full profit responsibility? Is the business unit larger than its most successful smaller competitors? Are there any big cost centers that are not assigned or allocated to someone who has a profit and loss responsibility?

c)        Are there corporate group or division staff redundancies? Do the same titles exist at different levels (e.g., corporate controller, group controller, division controller, plant controller)? If so, does it make sense? Can staff position or groups show how they actively contribute to profit results? If so, do line managers agree that these functions are worth the cost?

d)        Are there too many layers? Are there more than five layers between the business unit manager and first level workers? Are there managers with assignments limited to managing one, two, three or four people? Why? Can any of these activities be combined under one manager? Why not?

e)        Is the ratio of supporters to actual results producers satisfactory? How many people actually make a direct contribution to results (e.g., first-line sales personnel, direct hourly workers, sales order engineering and order entry workers, handlers of incoming materials, and storing and shipping personnel)? How many managers, staff, and support personnel are cheering them on? If there is more than one support person for every two producers, what do they do? How do they contribute to profits?

The questions are not new, but the answers are more important now than ever. Traditional or experience-based answers are probably wrong because conditions have changed so dramatically. Moreover, it is doubtful whether existing management can or will ever come up with the right answers, because they have vested interests and the changes needed are simply too tough for them to swallow. These organization structure questions are not as serious for many small to medium-size companies since they are not as likely to be troubled with highly structured, functionally focused organizations lacking a dedicated market orientation. However, even managers in these companies must constantly fight the natural tendency to become more structured, bureaucratic, and lethargic.

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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