Techno-stress and Well-being of People


The technological revolution has redistributed levels of stress in the workplace. Many jobs that formerely involved high stress levels, such as burning the midnight oil to do year-end inventory checks, can now be done in minutes, with less stress, thanks to  computers. Jobs that were formerly considered to have little stress, such as routine typing, now involve much more stress because of computers.

Computerized clerical workers suffer higher levels of stress related complaints than any other occupational group, including air traffic controllers. Worker’s compensation claims for computer-related stress form the fastest growing category of illness in the workplace. The human cost of the poorly planned march towards technological utopia has been significant, and can affect any part of the 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, and my Lectures.

Diet and Fitness


Growing evidence indicates that reduced intake of salt and saturated fats and increased consumption of fiber – and vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables are steps that can greatly increase the body’s ability to cope with the physiological effects of stress. Regular exercise also helps. People who exercise regularly obtain many benefits closely related to resistance of the adverse effects of stress. Fitness reduces both the incidence of cardiovascular illness and the death rate from such diseases. Similarly, physical fitness lowers blood pressure, an important factor in many aspects of personal health. It is not surprising that growing numbers of companies are taking steps to ensure that their employees engage in regular exercise.

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.

 

Intellectual Property


The most valuable resource in the modern economy is the human mind. The ideas, concepts, and other symbolic creations of the human mind are referred to as intellectual property. Intellectual property is protected through a number of special laws and public policies including copyright, patent, and trademark laws. These laws rest on two essential premises:

  • The creator, be it a person or an organization, of an idea or invention should be entitled to the benefits that flow from that original creation if it can be proved that the creation came from that person or organization.
  • The right to get special economic advantage from such inventions should not exist forever. At some point, ideas enter the public domain and can be used by others.

In today’s global economy, many temptations can arise for businesses and individuals to use other people’s ideas without permission. Patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property are sometimes infringed, or wrongfully used, by those who see an opportunity for quick profit, a practice known as commercial piracy.

A great deal of pirating occurs in industries such as computer software and hardware, industrial machinery, printing and publishing, and designer clothing. Because some governments do not curb such practices, businesses that create ideas are injured.

In coming decades, many new ideas will be developed and commercially exploited in such fields as bioengineering, computer software, fiber optics, and medicine, to name a few. In a global economy, these forms of intellectual property are economically valuable. A society that is scientifically and artistically creative has a big stake in laws that protect the companies that create new ideas. The employees who work for those companies have an important stake in the fair use of intellectual property, as do customers who license the technology or buy the products. A growing challenge for public policy and international trade negotiations is how to coordinate national laws protecting intellectual property rights.

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.

Intuitive Leadership and Sound Business


Intuitive Leadership is a term that has come into vogue only recently. In fact, tough-minded male executives have confessed to using intuition in their decision-making. Intuitive leadership is more than simply old-style leadership with some intuition added in to guide the corporate decision. It is leadership that takes into account both (a) the executives’ appreciation of their inner resources that are available but often not used and (b) the changes in institutions and society that are accompanying the “awakening” of employees and the public at large. The term “awakening” is used to describe the general phenomenon whereby people are becoming aware that they no longer have to accept their adopted beliefs, beliefs that they developed or accepted throughout most of their lives. These beliefs can include belief in the inderiority of certain ethnic or gender groups, beliefs in the sacrosanctity of economic customs and business practices (even if they are demonstrably not good for people or the planet), belief in powerlessness before the “big system,” or belief in the limited extent of one’s own ability to create what one wants.

In view of these changes, what is sound business for the future? What do these changes mean to business people? Of one thing we can be sure: business life will be replete with challenges. Some of these challenges will stem from the global dilemmas, with growing recognition of the role business has unwittingly played in accelerating modern society’s race towards self-destruction. Some of these challenges will stem from the changing attitudes of employees and the general public—the customers. The new environment for business will emphasize innovation and will be highly competitive. To prosper in such an environment, a business firm will need to attract and hold its most creative people. To do that, businesses will have to provide a work environment that fosters creativity development.

Developing intuitive leadership in the future will not be a luxury or a passing fad; it will be the heart of business. The challenges will be great. It will be necessary to deal effectively with the increasing complexity, interconnectedness, and systematic nature of the economic system. There is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that there will be persistent problems of mediocrity, debt, trade balance, global dilemmas, and worker morale. The good news is that we have inner resources we haven’t been using—untapped resources that are quite capable of dealing with these problems.

Thus “intuition” is not just a new gimmick in management decision making. Intuition is a code word for a necessary transformation of business—indeed, of global society.

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

Creating Strategic Slack


In considering strategies for supporting or protecting core distinctive competences and growing new ones, the issue of resource demands has to be considered. One means of releasing resources is to review those distinctive competences that are no longer central to the strategic future. As is often the case in organizations, competences and distinctive competences emerge, and become embedded into the culture/conciousness of the organization. However, as organizations change their strategic direction, the utility of these competences may reduce, sometimes with them becoming completely irrelevant. Identifying these will free up resources—creating strategic slack. Where competences (or the activities supporting them) are to be withdrawn, careful considration of how this is to be achieved is necessary (who needs to be consulted? What needs to be put into place?) so as to ensure that the resources are freed up rather than covertly protected.

 

An obvious means of freeing up resources is through outsourcing. Through building the business model, those areas that are considered potential candidates for outsourcing will have been scrutinized. Often organizations outsource units, departments and tasks without considering the overall impact on the business model, or on a distinctive competence. Understanding how the particular area or task to be outsourced fits in with the overall model can thus ensure a more sustainable and coherent approach.

 

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

Change or Change Management?


Our ability to deal with mega theme dramatic change is the subject of the next trend. Perhaps the single most important indicator for corporate success in the near future is the attitude of the company culture about change. The willingness of a structure to set itself up for change, to regard itself as a testing ground with daily battles, not just those that occur every planning period, is one of the best litmus paper indicators of eventual success or failure.

Today’s information explosion is just beginning. The growing list of mergers, alliances and joint ventures and the rapid deployment of technology are producing change at a velocity that even the seasoned players in businesses can’t surmise. The challenge for businesses will not be in how we manufacture or market change but how we manage it.

The days of the large-scale, vertically integrated corporation are numbered. The trend is toward smaller enterprises with increasing specialization of products are services: the upcoming approach is 50 people are the maximum for the company; if the staff gets above 50 people the company will be cut in two. There is no place to hide in a firm of 50 people. These small companies know what’s happening in their marketplace and with their competitors—they’re not from the marketplace.

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

Increasing Knowledge Intensity


Knowledge (information, intelligence, and expertise) is the basis of technology and application. In the 21st Century competitive landscape, knowledge is a critical organizational resource  and is increasingly a valuable source of competitive advantage. Because of this, many companies now strive to transmute the accumulated knowledge of individual employees into a corporate asset. Some argue that the value of intangible assets, including knowledge, is growing as a proportion of total shareholder value. The probability of achieving strategic competitiveness in the 21st Century competitive landscape is enhanced for the firm that realizes that its survival depends on the ability to capture intelligence, transform it into usable knowledge, and diffuse it rapidly throughout the company. Firms that accept this challenge shift their focus from merely obtaining the information to exploiting the information to gain a competitive advantage over rival firms.

 

Conditions in the 21st Century competitive landscape shows that firms must be able to adapt quickly to achieve strategic competitiveness and earn above average returns. The term strategic flexibility describes a firm’s ability to do this. Strategic flexibility is a set of capabilities firms use to respond to various demands and opportunities that are a part of dynamic and uncertain competitive environments. Firms should develop strategic flexibility in all areas of their operations. Such capabilities in terms of manufacturing allow firms to “switch gears—form, for example, rapid product development to low cost—relatively quickly and with minimum resources.

 

To achieve strategic flexibility, many firms have to develop organizational slack. Slack resources allow the firm some flexibility to respond to environmental changes. When the changes required are large, firms may have to undergo strategic reorientations. Such reorientations can drastically change a firm’s competitive strategy. Strategic reorientations are often the result of a firm’s poor performance. For example, when a firm earns negative returns, its stakeholders are likely to place pressure on the top executives to make major changes. To be strategically flexible on a continuing basis, a firm has to develop the capability to learn. The learning continuously provides the firm with new and current sets of skills. This allows the firm to adapt to its environment as it encounters changes.

 

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

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