Decisions: Considering Alternatives


An ideal alternative perfectly fulfills every condition set for it without adding new difficulties. Unfortunately, ideal alternatives are rare. We must, therefore, evaluate each available alternative by measuring it against all of our objectives. It is the relative quality of that fit that concerns us.

If we must choose among several alternatives, we will have to decide which one will best fulfill our objectives with the smallest acceptable risk. In other words, we try to make a balanced choice. An alternative that best accomplishes the objectives but carries severe risks is not, after all, the best choice. Another alternative, perhaps less exciting but safer, may be the best balanced choice.

If there is only one alternative, we must decide whether it is good enough to accept. In this case our evaluation will focus on its relative worth compared with a perfect but unobtainable alternative.

If we must choose between a current and a proposed course of action, then we consider both to be alternatives. We evaluate their performance against our objectives just as we would if both had been proposed. Whatever is currently being done is, after all, an alternative; the choice is whether to continue that way or find another, better way.

If, in the absence of any alternative, we must create something new, we can usually build an alternative from available components. We then choose the best and most feasable combinations, treat each as a separate alternative, and evaluate all of them against an ideal model of an alternative.

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

Expanding into New Functions


A common difficulty for entrepreneurs during the growth of their business is expanding into another distinctive business function. When we read or hear about outstanding entrepreneurs we see the exponential portion of their record. The long, slow foundation building is not interesting to the investment community or the media. But the truth is there was a long period of solid building within one distinctive business function.

A new business or a young business can barely support the management, administration, and marketing it has to have to operate in one distinctive function. Different business functions require different handling in each of these areas. This imposes an additional nonproductive burden on an already overburdened revenue-generating segment of the business.

Successful entrepreneurs start the smallest possible viable business concept and concentrate on it until it works very well. They get to know more and more about their little business until they know more about it than anyone else. They become the expert about their business.

When discussing the entrepreneur’s career path they perceive growth opportunities. At this point it is very easy for them to conclude that having made this business work they can make any business work. They frequently see green pastures on the other side of the fence. The successful entrepreneurs develop and refine a business concept for the growth they will undertake. They then expand their little business. They don’t leap after someone else’s headaches. They build on their own experience and expertise.

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

Disadvantages of the Single Proprietorship


The literature describes the various disadvantages of the proprietorship as follows:

o Owner’s possible lack of ability and experience

o Limited opportunity for employees

o Difficulty in raising capital

o Limited life of the firm

o Unlimited liability of proprietor

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

Distinguishing between Tasks and Responsibilities


Make sure people understand the difference between the responsibilities of their jobs and the tasks that must be performed in order to fulfill those responsibilities.

If a person receives a laundry list of tasks instead of a list of major responsibilities, he will have difficulty understanding how the job contributes to the accomplishment of the department and company goals. He may also restrict his activities to the list of tasks instead of the overall job to be accomplished.

A comprehensive list of responsibilities, as opposed to a detailed list of tasks, provides the person with a larger view of the job. It also gives people more freedom in deciding how to  go about fulfilling the responsibilities of the job and meeting the established goals and objectives.

This is not to say that the manager shouldn’t delegate tasks to the people who work for him. In some cases the manager should be quite specific as to what tasks should be performed in fulfilling the responsibilities. As a general rule, the more authority a person has and the greater the responsibility, the more freedom he should have in determining the tasks he will perform.

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

Accrual Accounting and Cashflow


Before the end of World War 1 most managers kept track of cash out and cash in. many senior citizen owner-managers still do today. There is an inherent problem in keeping the records that way, however, if the business offers and receives much credit. Doing business on credit displaces the time of the exchange of cash from the exchange of goods and services. Sometimes very little cash comes in during a particular month and very much cash comes in during other months. The same is true of cash out.

Keeping in track of what you pay or get paid for credit transactions causes the monthly reports describing the operations to fluctuate from month to month even though the goods and services flowing in and out of the business may be very much the same. About 1920 the accounting profession began placing emphasis on the accrual method of accounting to overcome this difficulty.

The accrual method portrays the smoothed-out profit as if all the transactions had been for cash and as if the business had purchased only exactly what was needed to make the sale. It is not an accurate portrayal of everything going on in the business, but it is a good approximation of the net effect of those things that affect profit. The problem is that so much emphasis has been placed on the accrual method income statement and balance sheet that the importance of cash has been regulated to virtual obscurity.

Even this result is satisfactory when the reports are describing large businesses with access to external financing through the stock market, commercial paper, and bank loans at the prime interest rate. But companies that do not have access to these external sources of financing have a different problem. For them, the flow of cash through the business means life or death, whether the accrual based profit is great or terrible. When new or small businesses need cash they must turn to the bank, the banker will look to the personal savings and assets of the owner-manager for collateral.

Accountants have not forgotten nor overlooked the importance of cash. They recognize the need for cash in sufficient quantity to keep the business operating. For their purposes, however, they often infer the cash available to the business from the income statements and describe future cash availability with the balance sheets. They, and others, frequently describe it as: cash flow equals net profit after taxes plus depreciation and other noncash expenses, such as amortization.

This statement is incorrect except under some very stringent preconditions that rarely exist in practice for a small business. This statement is an approximation that is valid for large and stable businesses in which changes from year to year are small and the statements from which the cash flow is inferred are annual reports. For a small and new business looking at monthly financial reports this approximation is inadequate. In a small, growing business the net cash flow to the firm’s bank account does not equal the net profit plus depreciation. Profit is not cash nor is it cash flow.

Although this pronouncement may be unconventional, entrepreneurs are realistic. Successful entrepreneurs ask how it really works and then get on with building their business. In the conventional approach the analysts, having inferred cash flow from profit, depreciation, and amortization, stop there, allowing their readers to assume that the resulting cash is in the bank wiating to be spent.

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

Walking and Talking Customer Value


To survive in this value era firms concentrate on improving four key business processes: designing, making, marketing, and supporting. Customer value is maximized when product, order, and experience—which are outcomes of the first three processes—are correct, timely, appropriate, and economical.

We are moving into the value era and firms will no longer survive if they simply focus on price and product features. Several non-price factors are thought to have great influence on customers perceptions of value received: 1) the length of customer lead times; 2) variation from promised delivery dates; 3) condition of product on arrival; 4) sales call and order initiation procedures; 5) credit, billing, and collection procedures; 6) effectiveness of after-sales support; 7) product documentation; 8) product performance; 9) product downtime frequency and duration; and 10) maintenance cost and difficulty.

There are four key business processes responsible for creating better customer value: 1) design—integrating the “voice of the customer” when building the product; 2) making –getting key inputs from suppliers and transforming them into other components or finished products leading to filled customer orders; 3) marketing—transforming sales leads into sales calls, sales orders, service calls, and sales support which lead to completed service transactions; and 4) support—those activities and tasks that serve internal customers.

In addition, the four key business processes must be reengineered and firms should strive for: 1) simplicity—provide the required variety of outputs at low cost and with minimum capital intensity; 2) focus—customer and supplier processes should be treated at the same process; 3) energy—employees should be empowered and also have problemsolving skills; 4) continuity—processes must have extensive improvement and refinement; 5) linearity—subprocesses within each process must be linked together and be customer driven; and 6) dependability—strong customer-supplier relationships assure the success of each process.

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

Cohesiveness: Getting the Team Spirit


One obvious determinant of any group’s structure is its cohesiveness—the strength of group members’ desires to remain part of their group. Highly cohesive work groups are ones in which the members are attracted to one another, accept the group’s goals, and help work toward meeting them. In very uncohesive groups, the members dislike each other and may even work at cross-purposes. In essence, coheviseness refers to a we-feeling an esprit de corps, a sense of belonging to a group.

Several important factors have been shown to influence the extent to which group members tend to “stick together.” One such factor involves the severity of initiation into the group. The greater the difficulty people overcome to become a member of a group, the more cohesive the group will be. To understand this, consider how highly cohesive certain group may be that you have worked hard to join. Was it particularly difficult to “make the cut” on your sports team? The rigorous requirements for gaining entry into elite groups, such as the most prestegious medical schools and military training schools, may well be responsible for the high degree of camaraderie found in such groups. Having “passed the test” tends to keep individuals together and separates them from those who are unwilling or unable to “pay the price” of admission.

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

Creative Management of Product Design


An emerging area of importance is product/process design. In increasingly competitive, sophisticated markets, attractively designed products or processes sell well; shoddily designed products are left alone on the shelves. Excellent product design requires high orders of essence creativity (novel ideas), elaborative creativity (contextually relevant elaborations of ideas that are unique because of the kinds of components utilized and the way they are fitted together), and expressive creativity (unique aesthetic features). There can be following basic steps for coming up with successful and creative product design:

a)    The designing unit should have members with diverse expertise so that their brainstorms can result in unique product design concepts that are also practical.

b)   It is imperative that the design unit has an in-depth understanding of the client and the market, the technologies needed or involved, and the nature of the problem and the constraints that need to be kept in mind.

c)    The design unit must take the trouble to observe people in real-life situations to identify their needs, difficulties, likes, dislikes, etc. Creative design needs creative observation, that is observation that is not only accurate but also multi-angled so as to yield interesting design possibilities. Innovation begins with eyes. The design unit needs to create a ‘bug-list,’ that is, a list of the problems that presently bug the likely users of the future products.

d)   The design unit needs to visualize a new product concepts and the customers who could be captivated by them. This can involve building several physical models and prototypes, simulations on the computer, and creation of videos that portray high the new product may be used by people well before it comes into existence.

e)    The design unit needs to evaluate and refine the prototypes/models through several quick iterations, each one involving changes and improvements. Inputs should be secured not only from members of the design unit, but also from experts, the client, and the potential consumers. Exceptional design seldom come right the first time around. Serially generated improvements based on the reactions and suggestions of the product’s stakeholders can quickly get the design unit to an exceptional design.

f)     Effective implementation that leads to the commercial use of the product. This is often a long and tedious process that creative teams frequently neglect. But the planning of milestones, cost cutting and cost control efforts, packaging and so forth are indispensable if a product design is to taste commercial success.

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

The Role of Experience


It is necessary to understand how knowledge is transferred to a novice. Textbooks provide novices with a background in a given area and a familiarity with the terminology used by other individuals in the field, but books alone usually do not produce an expert in a specific field. It is important to consider the type of experience that will be obtained and its role in developing expertise.

Certain difficulties exist when people try to gain experience from working with experts. Experts may be able to solve problems well may not be able to verbalize their techniques for solving them. Another difficulty in assessing the development from novice to expert concerns those problem areas that require creativity to generate solutions. For example, in the formulation of new products or new information systems, it is not always productive to look at past situations to find an appropriate method to solve a current problem. Sometimes new solutions are needed. Whether creativity can be learned is certainly open to debate, and there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. If creativity can be learned, the issue of how to develop it and how to judge when creativity has been learned becomes important.

Overall, if the problem can be solved as a result of experience in the field and there are acknowledged experts available with sufficient agreement on the nature of the solutions, the problem can be attacked through the development of an expert system.

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

Using Judgmental Forecasts


Judgmental forecasts are based on subjective views – often the options of experts in the field. Suppose a company is about to market an entirely a new product, or the board is looking at plans for 25 years in the future. They won’t have any relevant historical data for a quantative forecast. Sometimes there is a complete absence of data, and at other times the data is unreliable or irrelevant to the future.

 Quantative forecasts are always more reliable, but when you don’t have the necessary data, you have to use a judgmental method. There are five widely used methods:

  • Personal insight. This uses a single person who is familiar with the situation to produce a forecast based on his or her own judgment. This is the most widely used forecasting method – but is unreliable and often gives very bad results.
  • Panel consensus. This collects together a group of experts to make a forecast. If there is no secrecy and the panel talk freely and openly, you can find a genuine consensus. On the other hand, there may be difficulties in combining the views of different people.
  • Market surveys. Sometimes even groups of experts don’t have enough knowledge to give a reasonable forecast about, for example, the launch of a new product. Then market surveys collect data from a sample of potential customers, analyze their views and make inferences about the population at large.
  • Historical analogy. If you are introducing a new product, you might have a similar product that you launched recently, and assume that demand for the new product will follow the same pattern. If a publisher is selling a new book, it can forecast the likely demand from the actual demand for a similar book it published earlier.
  • Delphi method. For this you contact a number of experts by post and give each a questionnaire to complete. Then you analyze the replies from the questionnaires and send summaries back to the experts. You ask them if they would like to reconsider their original replay in the light of summarized replies from others. This is repeated several times – usually between three and six – until the range of options is narrow enough to help with decisions.

 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

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries