Productivity and People Management


Productivity—real output per working hour—is not rising quickly as it did previously. This does not necessarily mean that workers are becoming lazier. What it does mean is that in an uncertain economy, businesses are not investing enough in the machinery needed to help workers accomplish more. For example, the steel plants are so obsolete that Japan and Germany are taking over the international steel markets. Too, as the economy become more service-oriented, productivity tends to slow down. The reason is that services—such as family counseling—tend to be able to increase productivity only by reducing their quality.

Managing people and resources on all levels of organizations will continue to be a major managerial challenge. Future managers have to be more sensitive to people’s needs and more flexible in resolving problems. Early retirement and part-time work programs are likely to become common in the near future.

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.

Advertisements

Stumbling on Leadership


Using today’s methods of managing the technical development process, the most important decision top management makes on a new product is the selection of the group leader. The second most important decision is to stay out of the way and let the leader lead.

But who is a leader? Or, better, who will develop into a leader? The person has a non-authoritative position; that is, a leader has no line authority over such co-workers as peers, peers’ subordinates, temporary employees, vendors (subcontractors, suppliers), customers, and bosses. The leader leads in a milieu that can change from supportive to hostile overnight, with parameters that are almost completely unknown (e.g., competitive reactions), and with a new and even more inexperienced team of people.

Yet that person can overcome virtually every obstacle. That person alone can enthuse and motivate a group of people to do what seems impossible. Fortunately there is lots of this leadership around, managers with successful track records in this work and many managers who are as yet undiscovered. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to pick out the undiscovered.

Compounding all of this is the conviction of some firms that a new products project actually needs two leaders, a creative, inspiring type for early on, and a tough disciplinarian for the later stages. Very rarely do we find people who can do both.

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 Deliberate Innovation Strategy


The strategic choice view argues that if an incumbent is not the first to introduce an innovation, it may not be because it has no incentive to invest, its competence has been destroyed, it has not recognized the potential of the innovation, it does not have the complementary assets, it did not use the right adoption mechanism, or it is an environment that is not conducive to innovation. It may be because of the firm’s innovation strategy—its goals, timing, actions, and resource allocation in using new knowledge to offer new products or services. By making the right choices early, a firm can build the right competences and complementary assets, or even shape the kind of environment in which it is going to operate.

There are several innovation strategies: offensive, defensive, imitative, dependent, traditional, and optimistic. A firm with an offensive strategy is the first to introduce new products. If the strategy is to be the first to innovate, it will invest in the innovation and build the capabilities to do so.  In a defensive innovation strategy, a firm waits for a competitor with an offensive strategy to introduce a product first and resolve some of the uncertainties confronting the innovation. The defensive firm then introduces its own product, correcting any mistakes that pioneers may have made.

Firms pursuing a defensive strategy normally have very strong complementary assets—capabilities such as marketing, manufacturing, distribution channels, and reputation which allow a firm to commercialize an invention—and when they decide to move, they do so very quickly. They usually have a strong R&D since it takes knowledge to absorb knowledge. The product is not an imitation of the pioneer’s version but rather a differentiated product, often with better features and lower cost. The firm, in effect, catches up with or leapfrogs the pioneer. Thus not being the first to introduce an innovation may not be a sign of a lack of incentive to invest, competence destruction, absence of appropriate complementary assets, inappropriate adoption mechanism, or being in the wrong environment. It may be because the firm in question has a defensive strategy.

While a firm with a defensive strategy would like to differentiate its products, one with an imitative strategy would like to produce a clone of the pioneer’s product. It has very little attention of catching up with or leapfrogging the pioneer. It usually has such low-cost capabilities as lower labor costs, access to raw materials, and strong manufacturing. In the dependent strategy the firm accepts a subordinate role to a stronger firm. It imitates product changes only when requested by the customer or superior. Many large Japanese firms have these satellite firms. The traditional strategy makes very few changes to products, only striving to offer the lowest cost possible. In the opportunistic strategy the firm looks for some unique needs of a market segment that are not being met—it looks for a niche market. The point in all these other strategies is that a firm’s failure to introduce a product first can be due to its deliberate strategy.

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 Bottomless Pit


For many companies the networked enterprise vision became the reality for what appeared to be a bottomless pit into which money was poured with little prospect of achieving the ‘benefits’ that were originally sought. The returns from early investment in IT were problematic. The potion turned those with aspirations to become princesses and fairies into frogs and goblins.

Much of past ‘investment’ in IT has been used to shore up existing ways of working. We have used IT to set our organization in concrete. We have worked hard and spent millions consolidating a bureaucratic form of organization which we are now trying to break down.

IT suppliers, with a mixture of cheek and bravado, have long been in the business of offering solutions to the many problems which their own products have created. They suggest that this or that upgrade may yet turn the lead boots they have supplied into winged slippers.

While overall the introduction of early generations of IT may have had little beneficial impact, it does appear to have widened the gap between the more and less efficient companies. There are ‘winners,’ but for many IT from its origins to the dotcom era has been an ‘honest mirror’ that has confronted them with their own warts and wrinkles.

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

Advice to Entrepreneurs


Whether it is the best of economic times or the worst, being an outrageous consumer debt is fundamentally a foolish way to live. If you have that problem start making amends. Go on a money diet. Study your spending habits to see where you waste money. Is it eating out? Ordering in? Impulsive buying? Talking on the telephone? Too many ritual splurges? Take the money you would otherwise fritter away and apply it to your credit cards—one outstanding balance at a time. Of course, you don’t want to penny-pinch yourself into a state of low-grade misery, but you do want to get into the habit of living lean. Consider it a preset for the lifestyle you may need to adopt in the early stages of your business.

Reducing your debt serves several purposes: 1) starting a business is anxiety-producing and debt-incurring enough without beginning it with a lot of extra-business bills; 2) the closer to zero your charge card balances are, the more available credit you’ll have for business purchases and cash advances; 3) should you need a bank loan to capitalize your venture your prospects will be all the better.

If you don’t have a lot of credit card debt but are presently paying off a small loan (personal, educational, home equity) that is open-ended, go on the same diet and get rid of it. That is, beef up your payments against the principal of the loan in order to pay it off ahead of schedule and save yourself some interest payments in bargain.

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

Next Newer Entries