Defining Issues & Priorities


Ensure that the key issues facing business have been realistically defined in light of the current and rapidly changing business environment. There is nothing new about this requirement, but the fact is that very few management teams actually take the time and apply the discipline necessary to objectively define and prioritize the key issues that can make or break their business. The issues of inferior quality, higher cost products, lower productivity, and nonresponsive service plague manufacturers for the better part of the recent past. Many companies in industries such as steel, automotive, machine tool, textile, farm and construction equipment suffer badly as a result. Only few companies address these issues in effective ways. Most are unable to clearly identify the key issues, set priorities, and develop the necessary business plans to overcome the underlying problems.

While the specific issues vary for different companies and industries, the management mindset should not vary. To deal effectively with an increasingly turbulent environment, priorities must be set so the business can survive unexpected blows, adapt to sudden dropping changes, and then capitalize on smaller windows of opportunity that develop and close much more quickly than they have in the past.

Many progressive managers kick off their planning process with a session aimed specifically at getting agreement on key issues and priorities. Accepting these priorities require a shift in the way most managers think and act, such as:

  • Liquidity becomes a more important objective, often more important than reported earnings. It provides the flexibility to deal more effectively with unexpected events than is possible when everything is tied up in fixed and slow moving assets.
  • Productivity gains per dollar of capital and per employee must be achieved annually. These reductions must exceed inflation and achieve demonstrably lower costs.
  • Innovation must never stop. Demonstrable product and process improvements must be achieved year after year.
  • All cycle and response times must be continuously reduced.
  • A “frightened” sense of urgency must be the way of life in all parts of the business.

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.

21st Century Competition


The fundamental nature of competition in many of the world’s industries is changing. The pace of this change is relentless and increasing. Even determining the boundaries of an industry has become challenging. The companies compete not only among themselves, but also with companies in other sectors. The pace of change among once-stable phone companies is as relentless as it is in the “traditional” grocery industry.

Still other characteristics of the 21st century competition are noteworthy. Conventional sources of competitive advantage such as economies of scale and huge advertising budgets, are not as effective in the 21st century competition.

The traditional managerial mindset cannot lead a firm to strategic competitiveness in the competitive landscape. In its place, managers must adopt a new mindset—one that values flexibility, speed, innovation, integration, and the challenges that evolve from constantly changing conditions. The conditions of the competition result in a perilous business world, one where investments required to compete on a global scale are enormous and the consequences of failure are severe.

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.

Public Policy and Courts


Public policy is a broad concept that is impossible to define precisely. Perhaps the only realistic way to define it is to say that a court’s view of public policy is determined by what the court feels is in the best interests of society. Public policy may change with the times; changing social and economic conditions may make behavior that was acceptable in an earlier time unacceptable today, or vice versa.

There is therefore no simple rule for determining when a particular bargain is contrary to public policy and illegal. Public policy includes immoral and unethical agreements, even though they may not call for the performance of an illegal act. The courts have broad discretion in ruling on questions of public policy, and the discretion can provide the legal system with a degree of healthy flexibility. However, the courts may differ in their views of what constitutes desirable public policy—a difference that can make  a contract legal in one state/province and illegal in other.

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.

Self-Directed Work Teams


A self-directed work team is a group of employees responsible for an entire work process or segment that delivers a product to an internal or external customer. Sometimes called self-managed teams or autonomous work groups, self-directed work teams reduce the need for extra layers of management and thus can help control costs. Such teams are designed to give employees a feeling of ownership of a whole job. With shared team responsibility for work outcomes, team members often have broader job assignments and cross-team to master other jobs, thus permitting greater team flexibility.

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.

Flexibility


Flexibility means adapting to changing market demands. Small businesses usually have only one layer of management—the owners. Decisions therefore can be made and carried out quickly. In large firms, decisions about even minute matters can take weeks because they must pass through two or more levels of management before action is authorized.

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.

Service Culture


Any policy, procedure, aspect, action, or inaction of an organization contributes to the service culture. This includes employee appearance, the way employees interact with customers, and their knowledge, skill and attitude levels. It also encompasses the physical appearance of the organization’s facility, equipment, and any other aspect of  the organization with which the customer comes into contact.

Service culture has following elements:

  • Service philosophy:  Direction or vision of the organization that gives you day-to-day interactions with the customer.
  • Employee roles and expectations: Specific communications or measures that indicate what is expected of you in customer interactions and define how your performance will be evaluated.
  • Policies and procedures: Guidelines that define how various situations or transactions will be handled. These can help or hinder service delivery depending on your flexibility in interpreting and applying them.
  • Management support: Availability of management to answer questions and assist you in customer interactions, when necessary.
  • Motivators and rewards: Monetary, material items or feedback that prompts you to continue to deliver service and perform at a high level.
  • Training: Instruction or information provided through a variety of techniques that teach knowledge or skills, or attempt to influence your attitude toward excellent service delivery

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.

Avoiding Uncertainty


How do people deal with conflict, particularly aggression and the expression of feelings? High uncertainty avoidance favors precise rules, teachers who are always right and superiors who should be obeyed without question. Low uncertainty avoidance leads to flexibility, and a situation in which arguing with superiors is acceptable and students are happy with teachers who do not claim to know everything.

In weak uncertainty avoidance cultures, managers and non-managers alike feel definitely uncomfortable with systems of rigid rules, especially if it is evident that many of these were never followed. In strong uncertainty avoidance cultures people feel equally uncomfortable without the structure of a system of rules, even if many of these are impractical and impracticable.

The choice of structure is strongly influenced by the prevalent culture. A culture with high power distance and strong uncertainty avoidance prefers a functional ‘pyramid of people’ hierarchy. Lower power distance but high uncertainty avoidance encourages a ‘well-oiled machine’: an organization with a clear structure, rules and procedures.

The control process also helps managers deal with problems arising outside the firm. If the firm is the subject of negative publicity, for example, management should use the control process to determine why and to guide the firm’s response.

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.

 

Benefits of Using Teams


Teams are coherent groups of people with complementary skills who work together towards a specified goal. Teams are often the most efficient way of working, and their benefits include:

  1. The members achieving more by working together than they would by working separately or in large, unstructured groups;
  2. Improved motivation and effort;
  3. Flexibility to deal more effectively with change;
  4. More imaginative solutions to new problems; fewer mistakes, as faults are spotted by other members;
  5. Fair division of work, resources and rewards.

Nelson Mandela asked, ‘How can one individual solve the problems of the world? Problems can only be solved if one is part of a team.’ Notice that there is a difference between a team and a group of people who are simply working together. A team is a cohesive set of people who are motivated to achieve common goals. Simply collecting different people does not give a team, as they don’t trust each other, bring along internal politics, don’t share common goals and so on. Twenty people in a room don’t make a team. Team doesn’t just happen. They have to be developed, facilitated and motivated.

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 Drive for Speed


The ‘time culture’ can impose unrealistic deadlines upon those who are charged with the responsibility for delivering improvements. When a supply chain is improved, the single company may be no more able to achieve a tangible impact upon the external environment than it can deliver all the value that is sought by a final customer. When others are involved, there is likely to be bargaining and negotiation.

Environmental initiatives should not result in the pressure for speed or ‘response’ driving out the long-term thinking that is required. Assuming ‘results’ are required, these might best be achieved as a result of flexibility within the framework of a longer term relationship.

Today’s craze can be tomorrow’s memory. Too many managers assume that trends will continue longer than subsequently turns out to be the case. With many environmental and social policies taking many years to have a significant impact, companies face a dilemma similar to that encountered by those seeking to change attitudes and behavior. By the time the outcomes initially sought have been achieved, the requirement may have changed. Will there be a backlash when people count the costs? Will they become bored?

Attempts to deal with ‘isms’ can open a Pandora’s box of dashed hopes and unfulfilled expectations, especially when initiatives are not thought through. Enough noise may be raised to alarm some, while not enough is done to appease or deliver to others. Companies should beware of cosmetic programs.

Winners assemble a comprehensive, complementary and coordinated set of initiatives, embracing all the parties involved, that are likely to have a significant impact upon an environmental or social issue. They achieve significant changes of attitude or behavior, because all the various change elements that are necessary have been put in place.

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.

Improving Quality


Improving quality is a lot like taking vitamins, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. Although the results may not be immediate, long-term benefits are significant. Quality is neither a quick fix nor the program of the month, but rather a way of life for companies who are serious about improvements.

Quality is a fundamental to creating value, yet it is a moving target and must meet the customers’ current definition of quality. Thus, we offer the following recommendations for improving service quality and ultimately delivering superior customer value:

  • Design services in cooperation with customers. Learn what customers truly value by incorporating the voice of the customer earlier in the service development process. Also, it is important to determine not only the customers’ preferred service attributes but their relative importance, as well.
  • Focus your improvement programs outward, on market break points. Only by defining those episodes, when the customer comes in contact with the organization, and by focusing on the ones most critical can you see things as the customer sees them. Also, visualize the complete sequence of the moments of truth a customer experiences in having some need met. Remember, the customer sees service in terms of a total experience, not an isolated set of activities. Mapping the service cycle helps companies see these activities as the customer sees them.
  • Create a triangle representation of service quality. Hotels and restaurants often advertise and display on their properties ratings by one of the major motor clubs, such as AAA or Mobil Oil, Hertz #1 Gold Club service communicates a premium, value-added bundle of services to business travelers seeking a hassle-free car rental experience.
  • Use teamwork to promote service excellence—service workers who support one another and achieve together can avoid service burnout.
  • Create a service bias based on each of the following service quality determinants: professionalism, attitudes and behaviors, accessibility and flexibility, reliability and trustworthiness, service recovery, and reputation and credibility. These criteria can be used as guidelines for influencing positive service quality perceptions.
  • Develop proper measurements. Use metrics that are specific on nature, such as 95% on-time-delivery, customer wait time, or order processing time. Benchmark the best practices for each service are being measured, such as wait time or order delivery.
  • Employee selection, job design, and training are absolutely crucial to building customer satisfaction and service quality. Structure the job of service workers to maximize their ability to respond quickly and competently to customer needs. Also, train service personnel in areas of service delivery and attitude. Role play different service scenarios, showing various service recovery strategies. Provide service workers with some basic tools to help control service quality variation and uncover service problems.
  • Reward total quality efforts in marketing. Look for opportunities to reinforce quality behaviors when they occur. Employees should be rewarded ob the basis of these behaviors (commitment, effort) rather than strictly on outcomes, such as sales quotas. Rewarding a salesperson for meeting or exceeding quota with a bonus while giving a nominal award such as a pin or plaque to the person who fixes the product or process sends a clear message about the importance of quality.
  • Think of service as a process, not a series of functions. Service quality occurs when the entire service experience is managed and the organization is aligned to respond accordingly.

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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