Definition of the Problem


We must first define a problem exactly before we can describe, analyze, and explain it. We define it with the deviation statement, or name of the problem. It is important to state this name precisely because all the work to follow—all the description, analysis, and explanation we will undertake—will be directed at correcting the problem as it has been named.

However simple or complex a problem may seem at the outset, it is always worth a minute or two to ask, “Can the effect of this problem in the deviation statement be explained now?” If it can, we must back up to the point at which we can no longer explain the deviation statement. Vague or generalized deviation statements must be reworded into specific deviation statements that name one object or kind of object, and, and one malfunction or kind of malfunction for which I wish to discover and explain cause.

It is tempting to combine two or more deviations, in a single problem-solving effort or to try bunch a bevy of seemingly related problems into one overall problem. Nearly, everyone has attended meetings during which two or more distinct problems were tied ankle to ankle in a kind of problem-solving sack race. This procedure is almost always inefficient and unproductive.

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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Productivity—the Japanese Way


Economists are forever telling us that we need to increase productivity in order to improve our standard of living. Productivity is one of those concepts that are so loaded with meaning and implications that is very difficult to define, much less explain. Not surprisingly then, improving “it” is one of the most difficult tasks facing business. More to the point, the time for improvement is quickly running out. Industrial performance is being outstripped at a frightening pace by the Japanese. In fact, it has reached the point where their productivity performance is so superior that they can literally pick any product and any market and quickly come to dominate it.

The idea that Japanese are uniquely gifted in only a few related areas has been debunked by their proven successes in industries as diverse as automobiles and semi-conductors. As well, the facile suggestion that the Japanese are somehow culturally inclined to be productive doesn’t wash. Japanese managers have taken over factories in Europe and the US and greatly improved productivity records. Productivity has also been high in their North American plants.

If corporate managers believe that their workers can be as competitive as anyone else in the world, and technically, there’s no valid reason why they can’t be, then they must find better ways to help their employees realize their potential. In that sense, study of Japanese methods is a jumping-off point that can lead to adaptations that will produce unique ways of improving productivity.

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.

Delegation Skills


It’s not uncommon for managers to resist delegating the work they once did themselves. However, to be an effective and successful manager, it is essential that you delegate work to others.

To increase your willingness to delegate, first determine the reason for your resistance, then identify ways to overcome it. Common reasons for managers’ reluctance to delegation include:

  • Insufficient time to explain the task or train someone to do it. While this is sometimes an acceptable reason for not delegating short-term projects, more often it is not. The time you spend teaching employees’ tasks will save you time and effort in the long run. The sharing of knowledge is an investment in time that pays of in many ways.
  • Desire for perfection. If you feel that you are the only person who can do certain tasks well enough, be careful; this is a danger sign. It’s often unlikely that you are the only person who can do them. Start by delegating parts of these tasks, and each employees to help them perform to your satisfaction.
  • Personal satisfaction and/or reward from task accomplishment. If you enjoy a task or receive recognition from others when you perform it, you may tend to reserve it for yourself when you could be delegating it. It is difficult to give up work you really like. Learn to achieve satisfaction from other parts of your job.
  • Lack of confidence in employees’ abilities. If you lack confidence in an employee’s abilities, carefully evaluate what the employee can and cannot do. You may want to check your impressions with others, because people sometimes pigeonhole other people based on one or two vivid events. Then delegate work the person can do, and provide coaching as the work proceeds.
  • Fear of failure. Many managers are concerned that if mistakes are made, the consequences will be disastrous. Identify the  possible risk with the employee, if the risks are really large, ask that contingency plans to be made. Ultimately, you need to be  willing to take responsibility for your employees’ mistakes on delegated tasks to help them grow and develop.

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.

Writing Useful Instructions


When you need to explain in writing how to do something, a set of step-by-step instructions is your best choice. By enumerating the steps, you make it easy for readers to perform the process in the correct sequence. Your goal is to provide a clear, self-sufficient explanation so that readers can perform the task independently.

Gather Equipment

  1. Writing materials (pen and paper, typewriter, computer)
  2. Background materials (previous memos, policy manuals, manufacturer’s booklets, etc.)
  3. When necessary, the apparatus being explained (machine, software package, or other equipment)

Prepare

  1. Perform the task yourself, or ask experts to demonstrate it or describe it to you in detail.
  2. Analyze prospective readers’ familiarity with the process so that you can write instructions at their level of understanding.

Make your Instructions Clear

  1. Include four elements: an introduction, a list of equipment and materials, a description of the steps involved in the process, and a conclusion.
  2. Explain in the opening why the process is important and how it is related to a larger purpose.
  3. Divide the process into short, simple steps presented in order of occurrence.
  4. Present the steps in a numbered list, or if presenting them in paragraph format, use words indicating time or sequence, such as first and then.
  5. If the process involves more than ten steps, divide them into groups or stages identified with headings.
  6. Phrase each step as a command (“Do this” instead of “You should do this”); use active verbs; use precise, specific terms (“three weeks” instead of “several weeks”).
  7. When appropriate, describe how to tell whether a step has been performed correctly and how one step may influence another. Warn readers of possible damage or injury from a mistake in a step, but limit the number of warnings so that readers do not underestimate their importance.
  8. Include diagrams of complicated devices, and refer to them in appropriate steps.
  9. Summarize the importance of the process and the expected results.

Test your Instructions

  1. Review the instructions to be sure they are clear and complete. Also judge whether you have provided too much detail.
  2. Ask someone else to read the instructions and tell you whether they make sense and are easy to follow.

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 Right Thing for your Company


Make sure that the outcomes you define for your people are in line with your company’s current strategy. With the dizzying pace of change in today’s business world, it is sometimes hard for managers to keep track. The key distinction is between mission and strategy. A company’s mission should remain constant, providing meaning and focus for generations of employees. A company’s strategy is simply the most effective way to execute that mission. It should change according to the demands of the contemporary business climate.

Although the constant reassessment of strategy is vital to the health of the company, it does place managers in a rather difficult position. They are the intermediaries, charged with explaining the new strategy to the employees and then translating it into clearly defined performance outcomes.

Often this can be as simple as telling your salespeople that with the new company strategy focused on growing market share rather than profit, each salesperson will now be encouraged to focus on the outcome, ‘sales volume,’ rather than the outcome ‘profit margin per sale.’

However, sometimes the changes in strategy are more radical and the pressures on managers to refocus employees on different outcomes are more acute. For example, the most effective strategy for many high-tech companies used to be innovation. Hence the large R&D budgets, the hordes of dishelved but creative software designers, and the unpredictable, slightly unfocused work environments. For the major players who dominate the marketplace, critical mass—getting your product to be accepted as the standard—is now more important than innovation. Innovation can be brought from the smaller boutique houses. Thus these larger companies need to change the way they operate to ensure that virtually everyone’s efforts are focused on spreading the new language/platform/product into the marketplace. This means that managers in these companies will have to hustle to redefine the desired outcomes and find new definitions of success. Number of users, for example, may now be more important than revenue per user.

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.

 

Trend Analysis


Managers must often determine whether the variations in business activity indicated by statistics have any regular pattern.

Trend analysis, also known as time-series analysis, is the examination of data over a sufficiently long time so that regularities and relationships can be detected, interpreted, and used as the basis for forecasts of business activity. Such an analysis generally explains changes in terms of three factors: seasonal variations, cyclical variations, and secular (or long-term) trends in business growth.

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 Master Plan


Many people assume that a formal business plan is only for big time businesses. Wrong. A business plan is for anyone who wants to give their enterprise their best possible shot. It is where you detail out all the operational, marketing, and money matters of your business. It is, in essence, a road map. With it, you will better be able to reach your goal. Without it, you run the risk of spending precious time and money traveling in circles or unwittingly wandering into danger zones.

In response to the question, what a business plan is, follow the following”

  • A business plan is written by the home-based business owner with outside help as needed.
  • It is accurate and concise as a result of careful study.
  • It explains how the business will function in the marketplace.
  • It clearly depicts its operational characteristics.
  • It details how it will be financed.
  • It outlines how it will be managed.
  • It is the management and financial “blueprint” for startup and profitable operation.
  • It serves as a prospectus for potential investors and lenders.

A study for “why” of creating it, note:

  • The process of putting the business plan together, including the thought that you put in before writing it, forces you to take the objective, critical, unemotional look at your entire business proposal.
  • The finished written plan is an operational tool, which, when properly used, will help you manage your business and work toward its success.
  • The complete business plan is a means for communicating your ideas to others and provides the basis for financing your business.

While you are to be the author of the document, you shouldn’t hesitate to get professional help when it comes to areas outside your ken, such as accounting, insurance, capital requirements, operational forecasting, and tax and legal requirements. Finally, in response to the question, “When should Business Plan be used?” note:

  • To make crucial startup decisions
  • To reassure lenders and backers
  • To measure operational progress
  • To test planning assumptions
  • As a basis for adjusting forecasts
  • To anticipate ongoing capital and cash requirements
  • As the benchmark for good operational management

If you have been doing your research and homework all along, you probably have most of the raw material for the business plan, so it won’t be such an awesome task.

Business plans differ greatly, depending on the nature and scope of the enterprise. Some elements a person in a retail sales business would need in his or her business plan may be totally irrelevant for your service business. Similarly, business plans vary in length—from five or six pages or a virtual booklet; some are written in an engaging narrative style while others take another approach—just the facts. However, while business plans may differ in style, tone, length, and components, there is some common ground. Below is a list of items that should be in almost every business plan:

  • A summary of the nature of your business and its principal activity with a detailed description of the product(s) or service(s) you will offer.
  • A statement as to the form your business will take (sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporation) and how it will be managed and operated (with information on employees or subcontractors if applicable).
  • A discussion of any extra-ordinary (and potentially problematic) matters revolving around such things as space requirements, production processes, and operating procedures.
  • A discussion of major trends in your trade or profession.
  • A discussion of your competition and the basis on which you will compete.
  • A description of your target market that might include a profile of a typical customer or client.
  • A discussion of your plans for pricing, sales terms, and distribution.
  • A discussion of how you intend to advertise and promote your products or services.
  • A detailed statement of startup and operating costs for at least the first year.
  • A discussion of how your business will be financed.
  • Profit and loss and cash flow statements for at least the first year of business.

If this list has made a business plan seem all the more scary and arduous a task, don’t panic. There are books on the market that will guide you through the process.

A clean attractive business plan is a sine qua non if you will be applying for a loan or looking for investors. But even if the document is for your eyes only, you owe it to yourself to produce a professional-looking document. Since it is your road map, the neater it is the better it will serve you when you refer to it at various stages of your entrepreneurial journey.

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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