The Product Life Cycle


Customer demands are constantly changing. There are many reasons for this, ranging from fashions to new regulations. Sometimes there are obvious patterns to demand. Another pattern comes from the product’s life cycle. Demand for just about every product follows a life cycle with five stages:

  1. Introduction. A new product appears and demand is low while people learn about it, try it and see if they like it—for example, palmtop computers and automated checkouts at supermarkets.
  2. Growth. New customers buy the product and demand rises quickly—for example, telephone banking and mobile phones.
  3. Maturity. Demand stabilizes when most people know about the product and are buying it in steady numbers—for example, color television sets and insurance.
  4. Decline. Sales fall as customers start buying new, alternative products—for example, tobacco and milk deliveries.
  5. Withdrawal. Demand declines to the point where it is no longer worth making the product—for example, black and white television sets and telegrams.

The length of the life cycle varies quite widely. Each edition of The Guardian completes its life cycle in a few hours; clothing fashions last months or even weeks; the life cycle of washing machines is several years; some basic commodities like Nescafe has stayed in the mature stage for decades.

Unfortunately, there are no reliable guidelines for the length of a cycle. Some products have an unexpectedly short life and disappear very quickly. Some products, like full cream milk stayed at the mature stage for years and then started to decline. Even similar products can have different life cycles – with Ford replacing small car models after 12 years and Honda replacing them after seven years. Some products appear to decline and then grow again—such as passenger train services which grew by 7 per cent in 1998 and cinemas where attendances fell from 1.64 billion in 1964 to 54 million in 1984, and then rose to 140 million in 1997.

One thing we can say is that product life cycles are generally getting shorter. Alvin Toffler says, ‘Fast-shifting preferences, flowing out of and interacting with high-speed technological change, not only lead to frequent changes in the popularity of products and brands, but also shorten the life-cycle of products.’

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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Primary Research Data


Primary data consists of data that is obtained directly from the source. It is generally captured through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or other direct interactions with individuals. The use of primary data has increased dramatically over the past few years, and with the advent of bar code scanners, home shopping, interactive television, and other electronic media, the number of channels through which primary data can be collected will increase exponentially.

Primary data consists of two major types:

  • Individual level demographic data such as age, income, and home value.
  • Attitudinal and behavioral data.

In the past, primary data was often the province of market research, and was used primarily to provide direction for marketing programs that addressed large groups of customers and prospects. Demographic data was used to get a better “fix” on the characteristics of the larger market, and attitudinal data was used to provide a sense of which issues were important to various groups of customers, and therefore should be emphasized in promotional materials.

Market researchers use primarily data to identify new product opportunities or new segments within the customer file. This is usually done by sending surveys to a representative sample of customers or prospects to determine what products and services they are interested in but do not currently purchase from the firm sending the questionnaire. In this way, primary data gathered through market research surveys can lead to the development of products that are either new to the firm or, in some cases, new to the industry.

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.

Law in Business


A person who is involved in business is also involved in the law concerning business. Making contracts and using negotiable instruments—both of which are legal concepts—are the essence of business. Business and law were closely associated even when there were few lawyers and business managers spent relatively little time with them. The growing importance of law in business, however, is shown by the rapid increase in the use of lawyers by people in business. In recent years, the number of corporate counsel, the full-time lawyers who are employed by corporations; has been growing faster than the number in any other category of attorneys. Law firms that serve primarily business people have also been expanding at a great rate. Even the smallest businesses turn to lawyers frequently.

In the past quarter century there has been a qualitative as well as a quantitative change in the concern of business managers with law. In earlier times, business managers generally employed lawyers only in emergencies. A lawyer might be engaged if a summons to appear in court was received, if a businessperson could not collect a debt that was due, or if a supplier’s goods were defective and no settlement could be reached. Lawyers are still sought out when such things happen today. However, more and more, business managers employ lawyers to help them plan to avoid such emergencies and comply with a rapidly growing mass of legal rules imposed on business operations by government bodies. This use of lawyers by business people is called preventive law.

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.

Executive Summary


The executive summary, sometimes called the epitome, executive overview, management summary, or management overview,  is a brief consideration of the document addressed to managers, who rely on it to cope with the  tremendous amount of paperwork they must read everyday. Generally, managers need only a broad understanding of the projects the organization undertakes and how they fit together into a coherent whole.

An executive summary for a document under 20 pages is typically one page (double spaced). For a longer document the maximum length is often calculated as a percentage of the document, such as 5 percent.

The executive summary presents information to managers in two parts:

  1. Background: this section explains the background of the project: the specific problem or opportunity—what was not working effectively or efficiently, or what potential modification of a procedure or product had to be analyzed.
  2. Major findings and implications: the methods are covered in only one or two sentences. The conclusions and recommendations, however, receive a full paragraph.

An executive summary differs from an informative abstract. An abstract focuses on the technical subject (such as whether the new radio based system effectively monitors the energy usage); an executive summary concentrates on whether the system can improve operations at a particular company.

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.

Graphology


The use of graphology (handwriting analysis) assumes that handwriting reflects basic personality traits. Handwriting analysis thus has some resemblance to projective personality tests, although graphology’s validity is highly suspect.

In graphology, the handwriting analyst studies an applicant’s handwriting and signature to discover the person’s needs, desires, and psychological makeup.According to a graphologist the writing examplifies uneven pressure, poor rhythm, and unseen baselines. The variation of light and dark lines show a “lack of control” and is “one strong indicator of the writer’s inner disturbance.”

Graphology’s place in screening sometimes seems schizophrenic. Studies suggest it is generally not valid, or that when graphologists do accutrately size up candidates, it’s because they are also privy to other background information. Yet some firms continue to use graphology—indeed, to swear by it. It tends to be bigger in Europe, where “countries like France or Germany have one central graphology institute, which serves as the certifying body.”

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

Employee Training vs. Employee Development


Every organization needs to have well-adjusted, trained, and experienced people to perform the activities that must be done. As jobs in today’s dynamic organizations have become more complex, the importance of employee education has increased. When jobs were simple, easy to learn, and influenced to only a small degree by technological changes, there was little need for employees to upgrade or alter their skills. But that situation rarely exists today. Instead, rapid job changes are occuring, requiring employee skills to be transfomed and frequently updated. In organizations, this takes place through what we call employee training.

 Training is a learning experience in that it seeks a relatively permanent change in an individual that will improve the ability to perform on the job. We typically say training can involve the changing of skills, knowledge, attitudes, or behavior. It may mean changing what employees know, how they work, their attitudes toward their work, or their interaction with their coworkers or supervisor.

 Although employee training and employee development are similar in the methods used to affect learning, their time frames differ. Training is more present-day oriented; its focus is on individuals’ current jobs, enhancing those specific skills and abilities to immediately perform their jobs.

 Employee development, on the other hand, generally focuses on future jobs in the organization. As your job and career progress, new skills and abilities will be required. As you are groomed for positions of greater responsibility, employee development efforts can help prepare you for that day.

 Irrespective of whether we are involved in employee training or employee development, the same outcome is requirewd. That is, we are attempting to help individuals learn. Learning is critical to everyone’s success, and it’s something that will be with us throughout our working lives. But learning for learning’s sake does not happen in a vacuum. Rather, it is a function of several events that occur, with the responsibility for learning being a shared experience between the teacher and the learner.

 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

Roles, Prestige, and Organization Value


A role is a part or a function performed by a person in a particular position or situation. With most roles that are associated certain expectations of behavior. For example, we expect anyone who is a company president to behave differently from a junior employee, or the foreman to behave differently from the workers, or the coach differently from the player. Thus, it is that if we know someone’s role (which is often indicated by his job title or assignment), we can make some reasonable predictions about some of his behavior, even though we do not know the person. If a particular person behaves differently than is generally expected of someone in his role, uneasy feelings, often negative, frequently result.

 In a given organization, various roles have to be performed, and each of them is likely to carry a certain prestige, the amount of which will depend on the importance of that role to the achievement of goals and on preconceived expectations of the role. For example, we expect the role of president to be more important that that of general manager, and more prestige is accorded to the president. The roles and prestige of individuals and groups are useful to note because they help influence behavior and interrelationships in significant ways. Think how role expectations might affect a general manager as he deals with the president, a shop foreman, a worker, and his secretary. If you think his behavior might differ, why do you think so?

 You can predict rather easily the prestige accorded certain individuals and groups and the roles they perform. Think for a moment how both things and space serve as status symbols in a business organization. Observation of such symbols help indentify the relative value assigned both individuals and groups.

 By noting the resources, things, and space allocated to work groups and people, and the nature and conditions of their work, and by considering these factors in the context of the total organization, we can often get good understandings of both their relative status in the organization and some of the factors influencing them. In addition, such observations indicating something about the values of the organization. By noticing the quantity and quality of various facilities and people, and by observing the things and help high-status people have (and low status people do and do not have), you can make reasonable deductions about the values of the organization. For example, you can tell something about the college that has a large new library and no stadium as compared with one that has a large stadium and a small library.

 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

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