View from the Top

Consider the chief executive’s perspective. When a CEO looks at the company, several features stand out most sharply. These are the traditional components of corporate structure: divisions, functional departments, strategic business units, and subsidiaries. They are the activities over which the chief executive has responsibility. They form the mental model the top leadership has of the business. Most companies take these components for granted as their basic subunits.

Unfortunately, these components cloud more than clarify the perspective most essential to the intelligent resizing of a company’s work.

When changes are made in a company’s strategy, or when changes outside its control make readjustment or retrenchment necessary, the lines and boxes on the company’s organization chart are also frequently shifted. These moves usually seem to make good sense at the time—from just following function, after all—but as the retrospective research indicates, moving the boxes and redrawing the lines do not always pay off.

This happens because, frequently, the wrong question is being asked. The search is usually for the “best” organizational configuration: flat, functional, divisional, matrix, or some hybrid. This issue, which eventually does need to be addressed, is premature if it is the first thing that comes to mind when considering the company as a whole. It diverts attention from careful consideration of the “functionality” that the “form” is being adapted to. It also makes the company susceptible to the management fad of the moment, so that a means because the goal: how can we flatten our structure, use cross-departmental teams, or become an information-based organization? These are all potentially useful tactics, but for what end?

This type of organization, driven from the top down, is one that deals with the structures for doing things, rather than the things that need doing. Its view of the boxes on the organization chart too often goes no deeper than the head count the boxes contain. This perspective is troublesome and can be misleading, but even more dangerous is the viewpoint provided by some contemporary forms of strategic planning.

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, and my Lectures.

The Changing World of Business

The poor performance of star companies in the 1980s and 90s, both MNCs and domestic, has amply demonstrated their susceptibility to under-perform in the face of rapid and marked changes in technology, competition and customer expectations. It is not that all these companies lacked resources, capabilities or competent managers to anticipate and assess the impending changes and initiate proactive action; what they lacked was concern on the part of their managers to enhance the shareholder value of their respective firms on a sustained basis. As a result, this value got diverted to the customers, employees, competitors and suppliers of the company. While it is well known that a firm needs to develop distinctive capabilities and also build a strong network with its key stakeholders to enhance its value creating potential and appropriation of value this created, what really happened in case of most of these unsuccessful firms was that one or more of the stakeholders gained at the expense of the shareholders. The proponsity of managers to take operating, investment and financial decisions without any concern as to how such decisions can affect their shareholders led them to pursue strategies and investments that were ill-conceived and poorly executed, thereby systematically destroying the capabilities and equity developed over the years.

We should argue how the outcome of such a tendency can be detrimental to not only the firms but also to the job and career of the managers, particularly in the light of the various new developments—such as economic liberalization and opening up of most economies to domestic and global competition, greater freedom to access and move capital, emergence of the market for corporate control, and rising shareholder, activism—which have brought the issue of enhancing shareholders’ wealth to the forefront.

It is clear that managers will need to take a fresh guard and revisit their strategies, business processes and organization in order to face this complex set of challenges and retain their firm’s ability to enhance wealth of their shareholders. Thanks to the contribution made by the academia and practising executives, managers now have access to various concepts based on experiences when it comes to facing such challenges. However, it must be stressed that the need of the hour is not another set of concepts and framework; rather what is required is a new “philosophy of business” that draws the attention of every employee of an organization, starting with the CEO, to the importance of creating, enhancing and sustaining shareholder value in everything that the company does—be it strategic, tactical or even routine matters. Needless to say, the employees will also need guidelines on how to operationalize this new philosophy and what actions are needed to sustain the same.

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, Line of Sight