Communities of Practice


One of the most successful uses of the Internet has been the emergence of informal knowledge communities or a community of interest. It is an environment usually outside of conventional organizational structures, where people can converse with each other about the common problems they face in their workplace or in their professional life, a common passion for some subject or a common mission. Most communities of practice are contained within a single organization but sometimes they cross institutional boundaries.

A community of practice does not necessarily have to be transacted solely on the Internet and in fact the most successful ones almost always have a face-to-face meeting component to them. As good a tool as the Internet is, it can never replace the intimacy and fullness of communication of face-to-face meetings of individuals. The importance of the internet to a community of practice js that it provides a link beyond the times when people can physically meet and hence sustains the group. It also permits a community of practice to develop among people who are not co-located.

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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Context for Reinventing the Corporation


  1. The shift in strategic resource from an individual to an information society;
  2. The coming seller’s market and the new competition for the best employees;
  3. The whittling away of middle management;
  4. The continuing entrepreneurial revolution;
  5. The emergence of the new variegated work force;
  6. The demographic revolution of working women;
  7. The growing use of intuition and vision;
  8. The mismatch between our education system and the needs of the new information society;
  9. The rising importance of corporate health issues.

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.

National Sovereignty and Corporate Power


Multinational corporations present real challenges to a nation’s sovereignty and independence. The national sovereignty principle holds that a nation is a sovereign state whose laws, customs, and regulations must be respected. It means that a national government has the right, power, and authority to create laws, rules, and regulations regarding business conducted within its borders.

The second principle that shapes business-government relations in most countries is the business legitimacy principle. This principle holds that a company’s behavior is legitimate if it complies with the laws of the nation and responds to the expectations of its stakeholders. In theory, the principles of national sovereignty and business legitimacy are not in conflict.

As multinational corporations reach across national borders, their global operations may exceed the regulatory influence of national governments. This has raised concerns about the emergence of stateless corporation. These corporations have facilities, shareholders, and customers everywhere. Therefore, they seem to owe loyalty to no single nation and are able to organize and recognize around the globe. There are economic and political advantages to being, or appearing to be, stateless.

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.

Internet and Knowledge Management


The Internet and knowledge management function as catalysts or stimuli for each other. The Internet provides a physical medium of the organization’s sharing and co-creation of knowledge. It also acts as a catalyst for the cultural shift in attitudes, which encourages cooperation and collaboration among all of the players in the activities of an organization including co-workers (by co-workers mean all employees regardless of their status), suppliers, customers, business partners and in some cases even among competing firms. Knowledge management, on the other hand, requires a medium like the Internet for the distribution, facilitation and promotion of knowledge transactions. The Internet is reshaping collaboration and we ought to know how this is taking place and how we can take advantage of it.

Not only has the Internet functioned as an excellent medium for the practice of knowledge management by speeding up the pace of innovation and the force for bringing knowledge to the fore as today’s principal source of wealth. In the age before computing and the Internet, when change was not so rapid as it is today, all players had more or less the same opportunity to acquire the knowledge to conduct business. In today’s rapidly changing environment the ability to access and create knowledge is absolutely essential to success and , hence, the emergence of knowledge management.

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 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 www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Product Life Cycle


Once the market has emerged and a firm has decided to enter, it must still contend with uncertinities in the products in the market. The marketing literature offers a parallel to the technology life cycle: the product life cycle. A product has four predictable stages with distinctive characteristics, marketing objectives, and strategies. The introduction stage starts when the new product is launched. Sales are low, costs per customer are high, profits are negative, customers are largely lead users, and competitors are few. In the growth stage, sales rise rapidly, costs per customer start to drop, profits start rising, and the number of customers also increases. In the maturity stage, sales peak, costs per customer are low, profits are high, and the number of competitors is stable. In the decline stage, sales start to decline, costs per customer increase, profits arte declining, and the number of compititors is also declining. These characteristics call for specific strategies. For example, in the introduction stage, a firm’s objective is to create product awareness, and product strategy is to offer a basic product. The demand in each market is fulfilled by a seriies of different generations of products, with the first one introduced at the emergence of the market.

 

The main drawback in using the product life cycle to reduce uncertainty is that number of stages and duration of each vary from product to product. It is also difficult to tell when a stage starts and ends. In any case, they provide some regularities to help a firm know when and what to invest in an innovation.

 

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

Antiquated Strategic Planning


At one time, the view from the top of most corporations was strongly influenced by their leaders planning doctrine. Executives were taught that the best way to plan for a complex company into discrete components, called strategic business units. For a time this practice provided a helpful way to unbundle the corporation and to select strategies most appropriate to each unit’s individual situation.

Companies were best thought of as a portfolio of individual businesses: some brand-new and unproven, some growing rapidly and consuming great amounts of cash, some growing rapidly and generating the cash needed by the up-and-comers, and some out and out losers.

Strategic planners eventually carried the idea one step further. They developed formulas that appeared to identify the contribution each business unit was making to the company’s overall stock price. Called value-based planning (as in shareholder value), its application, along with techniques such as junk-bond-driven leveraged buyouts, helped de-conglomerate many corporate dinosaurs in the financial go-go years.

These planning techniques are logical and quantifiable, descriptive as well as perspective. They provide a seemingly attractive way for the head of an enterprise to put arms around what might have become an increasingly diverse array of businesses. But thinking of a corporation as if it were similar to a portfolio of stocks or other investments can also be very limiting and one dimensional.

This kind of thinking tends to overemphasize the uniqueness of each business and often assumes that all the competition in which the corporation is engaged occurs when its business units do battle with their counterparts in other companies. It suggests that the role of top corporate management is either secondary or passive with regard to competition. It also implies that top management’s role is primarily that of a banker to the individual strategic business unit, concerned chiefly with financial resource allocation, and that it adds value mainly through “balancing the portfolio” by buying or selling the strategic business units that make up the company.

This approach encourages a “trader’s mentality” on the part of top management. Traders like to buy and sell, conglomerate and de-conglomerate. But they do not know how very much about how to grow the company from within.

Decentralization, sometimes extreme decentralization, is also encouraged, because each business is expected to stand on its own, containing most of the resources it needs for its operations. This simplifies the job of top management. It has only to focus on each strategic business unit’s bottom line and consider the details of its operations on an exception-only basis.

But this simplification comes to a great cost. Stressing stand-alone uniqueness and managing through the blinders of short-term earnings results in living, growing business entities treated almost as if they were fragments of the company’s stock certificate. The disease of the stock markets—perspective that seldom extends beyond next quarter’s financials—is passed along to the company.

There is another danger when strategic business unit framework dominates corporate decision-making. This is the tendency to grow redundant resources in the company as each strategic business unit, over time, builds up all the functions and staffing it feels it needs to operate as autonomously as possible. At times headquarters management tries to check the emergence of this costly duplication by mandating resource sharing across strategic business units, by using central service groups, or both. But these well-meaning attempts at cost containment send mixed signals to the strategic business units and they also can impose heavy coordination costs in terms of time and loss of flexibility.

Many intelligently managed companies led down the paths and took a seemingly attractive shortcut in their thinking. They confused a framework for planning with a basis for organizing power and resources. They used a perspective that directs to management’s attention to the financial scorekeeping aspects of the business at the cost of neglecting the underlying mechanisms that create value 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 contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight