Losers’ Description of Capabilities


Corporate losers describe their capabilities in terms of the physical and financial resources they own and control and the individuals whom they employ and can manage. Their markets are places. Their people are more comfortable with tangible assets that can be seen, smelt and touched, and easily counted, measured and valued.

Because their activities depend on the availability of physical resources some losers can operate only in certain geographical areas. It may be difficult for people living elsewhere to access them and work with them. Buildings become prisons and those excluded from participation become outsiders.

In general, losers prefer more rather than less. Some consider the accumulation of resources as an end in itself. Recruiting more staff and moving to a larger property is viewed as evidence of progress. Losers focus upon the individual items of capital rather than their relevance use, and the flow of benefits that they provide. The more losers succeed in accumulating fixed overheads, the more vulnerable they become to economic forces, commercial constraints and financial pressures.

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.

 

Economies of Scale


You get economies of scale when the unit cost falls as the number of units made increases. There are three reasons for the lower unit costs:

  • Fixed costs are spread over a larger number of units;
  • You can use more efficient processes, perhaps including more automation;
  • More experience with the product raises efficiency.

Economies of scale encourage you to concentrate operations and make as many units as possible in the same facilities. Another benefit from larger operations comes from the ‘learning curve.’ The more often you repeat something, the easier it becomes.

Obviously, you can’t expand facilities for ever, and there is no point in having more capacity than likely demand. More realistically, if you expand beyond a certain size the organization gets too complex – making communications, support functions and management more difficult. Beyond this point you get dis-economies of scale. You can see these in many large organizations, such as governments, which aim for the efficiencies that come from centralization, but actually get bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape.

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 Profit Economics


The following information is required, at a minimum, to understand the profit economics of a business:

  1. How many dollars of assets are committed in each stage of each product/market business (e.g., R&D, materials, plant and equipment, finished stock, post-sale support)?
  2. What is the fixed/variable cost relationship for each product/market business, that is, for each dollar of sales, how many cents are attributable to bedrock fixed costs, how many to structured or discretionary costs, and how many to out-of-pocket costs?
  3. How do costs and profit change with swings in volume?
  4. What is the break-even point at current volume and what actions could be taken to bring that break-even point down should volume potential decline?
  5. What is the rate of incremental profit on each added increment of volume? What are the volume points where new increments of structured cost must be added?

A net profit and loss statement (after all allocations) and a balance sheet for each product line are essential for generating answers to these questions. Despite their claim that “we know all that,” very few managers actually have this information readily available.

Actually, most accounting systems are not designed to provide these kinds of statements and the accountants will argue that you can’t get them because many products run over the same machines, a lot of indirect costs can’t be allocated, and so on. To which we say, baloney! Shared fixed and indirect charges often represent the most serious cost problems in business situations where a cost disadvantage exists. And they are impossible to attack in the aggregate. They must be broken down and assigned to a discrete business unit even if done arbitrarily. Then a manager with hands-on responsibility can argue about fairness and whether there is value received for the costs involved. Although this is obviously not a precise exercise, it is effective and essential. Without full cost profit and loss and balance sheet statements managers cannot really understand the profit economics of their business. Further, they can’t make the types of intelligent business decisions and plans so important in today’s environment.

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

Fixed and Variabl Costs


The study of cost behavior in physical distribution is quite similar to that in manufacturing because most of the activities are repetitive in nature. Under such conditions physical measurements such as man-hours, units handled, and orders processed can be used to measure the activity. Changes in the level of cost incurred usually are caused by changes in the level of activity experienced.

The first step in understanding the cost behavior of physical distribution activities is to establish the relationship between the amount of each cost and an appropriate measurement of the level of activity. Variable costs are those costs that change in proportion to changes in volume and fixed costs. Examples of variable costs include the handling charges in a public warehouse and the cost of packing material used in a shipping department. Fixed costs include depreciation, security costs and taxes on company-owned warehouses, and the salary of transportation manager.

Some costs are mixed, that is, they contain both a fixed and a variable component. An example might be a warehouse labor. A basic crew of three may be required to cover the normal range of activity. However, if the volume of activity exceeds a certain amount, overtime or part-time employees may be necessary.

In some cases costs may be fixed over a relevant range but may increase in steps. These costs may be referred to as step variable cost or step fixed costs. The major distinction is the size of the steps. For example, in an order-processing department of twenty people labor may be considered a variable cost without making a serious error. This is because a relatively small percentage change in the number of orders could result in a change in the number of employees. However, in a department of three people the cost should be considered a fixed cost since a large percentage change in the number of orders processed usually would be required in order to eliminate an employee. Other examples of step fixed costs include the costs of management salaries, depreciation, and taxes associated with each warehouse that the company owns and operate.

Effective planning and control require that the total costs be separated into the fixed and variable components.

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

Costs: Short Run and Long Run


In the short run costs are fixed; in the long run they become variable. This is the fundamental difference between long run and short run. The distinction is a matter of degree. The longer the run contemplated, the greater the range of costs regarded as variable rather than fixed.

Consider a manufacturing firm. Toward the variable cost end are the expenses of inputs like electric power, supplies of material, and ordinary labor services; toward the fixed end are costs associated of supplies or breakdown of machinery calls for a very short, say an hour’s, reduction of output. Some electric power would be saved in the slowdown, and there would be reduced usage of materials, but little else could or would be changed. If output were to be cut back over a period as long as a day, some labor might also be laid off. Over a period like a month a large function of the labor force might be furloughed (their wages would become a variable cost), and perhaps some leased equipment like trucks would be dispensed with. Finally, for a permanent reduction in output the firm will sell off machinery and scale down its real-estate commitments.

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

Organizational Compassion


Although little, if anything can be done to avoid certain disasters, fortunately, there is something that leaders and managers can do to help everyone involved return to business as usual. Specifically, company officials should create an environment in which people can express their emotions in which they can do something to alleviate their own and others’ suffering. In other words, they should express organizational compassion.

 

To be as compassionate as possible, organizational officials should pay attention to the four dimensions: greater scope, more generous scale, more rapid speed, and greater specialization of response are indications of an organization’ compassion competence. This is important insofar as it helps employees heal emotionally when times are tough. For example, an organization would show compassion when it (1) treats an ill employee by doing lots of things to help, such as sending flowers, delivering meals, providing financial support, helping with child care, and so on (broad scope); (2) does these things generously, such as providing the amount of help needed as opposed to only limited amounts (extensive scale); (3) acts quickly, such as by leaping into action to provide help right away (rapid speed); and (4) specializes its action, such as by catering to the unique needs of this particular sick individual instead of offering a fixed, standard package of benefits (greater specialization).

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

Use Project Management


Management is usually viewed as continuous process that lasts without a break for the whole of your organization’s life. But some jobs are clearly projects; they do a specific job, have a distinct beginning and end and a fixed duration. When the job is done, the project is finished.

 

People have developed special approaches to project management. A project manager often has overall control and can have very wide-ranging responsibilities. The project team does not follow the usual ‘line of authority,’ but is seconded from line functions. This gives a matrix structure where people have divided responsibilities. The control of projects is made easier by dividing them into phases running from conceptual design through to termination. There are special methods for planning projects.

 

Managers have increasingly realized that they can use these methods in their everyday work. You probably find that a lot of your work is not continuous, but consists of a series of projects. Consultants work for different clients, software houses work on different packages, marketing departments run a series of promotions.

 

Project management can bring a lot of advantages to your work. It gives the expected times for some key activities, and the computer automatically prints schedules for activities and all resources. More generally, project teams have the benefits of:

  • Using management methods that recognize the nature of projects;
  • Solving problems quickly, as the right people are assembled to concentrate on a solution.
  • Spreading expertise around the organization, as team members move on to new projects and share their experiences;
  • Using resources efficiently, as they are released to other projects when not needed;
  • Tightly controlling operations, with constant feedback on progress.

 This does not mean, of course, that project management is better than continuous management. But project management does give an additional set of management tools that you might find useful.

 

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

Project Financing


Project Financing (PF) has emerged as an innovative and timely financing technique and is being used in many high-profile infrastructure projects. Employing a carefully engineered financing mix, it is used to fund large-scale projects, from communications, to telecommunications, and power to energy projects. It is a preferred alternative today. It will be foremost option of future.

PF holds great promise, which is just beginning to be realized as a means of financing projects designed to help meet the enormous infrastructure needs that exist in a developing countries.

Most infrastructure projects in developing countries are being funded by exchequer and thus in nearly all cases the construction of much desired projects are delayed due to lacking funds and deficient resources. Particularly when local governments are functioning full swing developing countries need to consider PF as a preferred choice.

PF can be arranged when a particular facility or a related set of assets is capable of functioning profitably as an independent economic unit. City governments (sponsors) of such a unit may find it advantageous to form a new legal entity to construct, own, and operate the project. If sufficient profit is predicted, the project organization can finance construction of the project on a project basis, which involves the issuance of equity securities (generally to the sponsors of the project) and of debt securities that are designed to be spell-liquidating from the revenues derived from project operations.

The intricacies of PF are formidable, and can easily be misunderstood and consequently, misused. While PF structures share certain common features, by necessity, they require tailoring the package to the particular circumstances of the project. That is where both the benefits and the challenges lie.

What distinguishes PF from conventional direct financing is that in PF, the project is a “distinct legal entity” and the financing is tailored to the cash flow characteristics of the project assets. Such a structure can yield a more efficient allocation of risks and returns than conventional financing, but careful financial engineering is critical.

It is a form of asset-based financial engineering. It is asset-based because each financing is tailored around a specific asset or related pool of assets. It involves financial engineering because, in so many cases, the financing structure cannot simply be copied from some other project. Rather, it must be crafted specifically for the project at hand.

PF is the raising of funds to finance an economically separable capital investment project in which the providers of the funds look primarily to the cash flow from the project at the source of funds to service their loans and provide the return and a return on their equity invested in the project. The terms of the debt and equity securities are tailored to the cash flow characteristics of the project. For their security, the project debt securities depend, at least partly, on the profitability of the project and on the collateral value of the project’s assets.

PF is not a means of raising funds to finance a project that is so weak economically that it may not be able to service its debt or provide an acceptable rate of return to equity investors. In other words, it is not a means of financing a project that cannot be financed on a conventional basis.

At the center is a discrete asset, a separate facility, or a related set of assets that has a specific purpose. This can include trash collecting trucks, toll roads, water supply and sewer projects, or some other item of infrastructure. This facility or group of assets must be capable of standing alone as an independent economic unit. The operations, supported by a variety of contractual agreements, must be organized so that the project has the unquestioned ability to generate sufficient cash flow to repay its debts.

PF can be advantageous to Pakistan when it has a valuable resource deposit, other responsible parties would like to develop the deposit, and it lacks the financial resources to proceed with the project on its own.

Commercial banks and life insurance companies have traditionally been the principal sources of debt for large projects. In the typical financing structure, commercial banks would provide construction financing on a floating rate basis, and life insurance companies would then provide “permanent financing” on a fixed rate basis by refinancing the bank loans following project completion. For infrastructure projects have become a high priority, commercial banks, having adjusted to the tighter capital standards, have expanded their role in PF. They advise as well as lend.

Multilateral agencies, such as the World Bank and IDB, and various agencies, such as Eximbank and OPIC, have also stepped up their funding of private infrastructure projects. Developing countries’ capital markets can also be a useful source of funds. Raising funds locally can reduce a project’s political risk exposure.

Most recently, through the financing of hundreds of independent power projects, it has become evident that PF is suitable for relatively low-risk projects that involve standardized nonproprietary technology.

PF has attracted growing interest as a means of obtaining capital. Its potential is perhaps greatest for the many large infrastructure capital investment projects that are on the drawing boards of many local governments. The projects are large and expensive, and the risks are great. But the potential benefits are enormous. Project financing could be the answer to the financial needs of such local governments.

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