Goodbye Industrial Economy, Hello Global Knowledge Economy


Goodbye the state running things, hello Global Joe Citizen empowered by the technology-driven changes in the first decade of the 21st Century and with a mobility beyond the wildest dreams of those who brought us into this world. Yes, I do mean us, fellow global citizens.

The 20th Century was all about us having to rely on governments to deal with those issues beyond our personal capacity to influence, regardless of how much concern and anxiety were personally invested. Simply put, this has all changed.

Just as the world landscape is now determined by a new order of collaborative arrangements, so the time has come for us all to seize control of our choices and pursue new personal value-led collaborations.

Together you and I must make it work for all our fellow global citizens, not least the 800 million who will go to bed hungry tonight. If the values, beliefs, ideals, and ethics that we take with us to work each day do not result in our business environment adding rather than detracting from the sum of global cooperation, our long-term personal and corporate business goals are doomed to failure.

But what we do have is a business environment pregnant with possibility and unfettered by past constraints of geography and technology. It is up to us as individuals to nurture an atmosphere where value-led decision making thrives.

Corporate culture looking beyond traditional business horizons is the agenda item of the moment. The public scrutiny and disapprobation flowing from corporate scandals on a global scale request and require a re-evaluation of compliance with ethical, environmental and social imperatives. A new collective, caring culture is no longer just an attitude of mind rather than depth of pocket; it makes good business sense.

Therein is your desirable future: you are the engine that drives new connection between global business and your community. Integrity is the fuel that drives both the engine and the process. Take control of your choices and root them in the eternal triangle of truth, trust and peace. Without truth there can be no trust and without trust there can be no peace. Adopt this landscape for mapping your relationships. Until people trust you, they will not change with you. So many of today’s leaders now fail to fulfill their ambitions for this very reason. Never underestimate the power of good intent. When you change, the world changes with you.

The more your ambitions are aligned to the benefit of humanity as well as your business, the more relevant the product of your labor will be. In turn, the more valuable you become in the market place, the greater your capacity to take control of your choices and your future. A values-led approach and entrepreneurial spirit advancing an enterprise culture are not mutually exclusive.

On the distant future day you finally retire from your business world, your peers, looking back, will judge you on your actions and achievements not just on your beliefs.

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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Fuse Knowledge to Power


Architects are concerned with flows. When designing a building, their paramount considerations are how occupants will move in it and how light and air will circulate around it. Equally important for organizational architects is how information, know-how, decisions, and careers will flow in the structure being shaped.

When the work of the corporation was primarily the organizing of manual labor, markets were local and slow to change, and the knowledge base upon which competitive success depended was stable, a unitary hierarchy of manager atop manager made a lot of sense. The information needed to run the business was limited and could be easily channeled in one upward or downward flow. Workers did the work, and managers did the thinking.

But this is a reality that has disappeared from most industries. Markets are dimensioned globally, rules change faster than some competitors can master them, and brainpower counts for much more than brawn. Most organizations, though, remain keyed to the old realities. Few hierarchies have even kept up with the need to build in change by linking each of their limited number of levels with the time horizons of greatest importance to the company.

A more serious problem, though, is the lack of rethinking about how a business needs to organize its intellectual capital, its knowledge workers. It is ironic, and wasteful, that while “knowledge workers” (technical professionals and other holders of graduate or postgraduate degrees) are making up an increasing proportion of the work force in many industries, the organization structures in which they work remain more the products of Industrial Revolution than of the information age.

Knowledge, especially which can affect the company’s future competitiveness, used to be confined to the research and development lab or to the strategic planning department. Now, as information systems-driven service industries assume a larger share of many economies, knowledge about the capabilities that provide competitive advantage is much more widely dispersed than was ever necessary in traditional manufacturing companies. No single information channel can contain it all. And even traditional product makers are changing. Fewer manufacturing jobs are directly involved in making something; more are concerned with planning what to make, how to make it, and how to keep customers happy after the product has been purchased. The intellectual demands on front-line workers have increased tremendously. The narrowly skilled assembly jobs have been replaced by the more knowledge-intensive positions of the factory automation technician.

Requirements for more intellectual value added have escalated up many organization hierarchies. Networked data bases, expert systems, and almost never-ending flow of new personal computer software have significantly expanded the scope and the nature of the contribution possible from many mid-level employees. This is not an unmitigated blessing, though. It has also seriously polluted the management role in many companies, making many into high-level doers instead of managers, increasing the role’s fragmentation, and making it brittle rather than strong and load-bearing.

This situation will only worsen as economic pressures lead to increased management delayering. Companies with eight to ten tiers of management will find it necessary to organize around four or five. The number of subordinates per manager will have to sharply increase. Middle managers will find themselves with less and less time to master these new white-collar productivity enhancers and to make the intellectual contribution their businesses increasingly need.

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

Strategic Decisions


There are three central characteristics of strategic decision making:

  1. Strategic decisions that affect the very survival of the firm;
  2. The effects of a decision last a long time, perhaps five to ten years;
  3. The long range effects of a decision are very hard to forecast.

Actually, the first characteristic is really the definition of a strategic decision. The other two characteristics follow from it. If we could correct a bad decision of any size within a year or two, then it would be less likely to harm the firm permanently. And it should be clear that any decision whose effects last for many years will be extremely difficult to forecast.

Difficulties of long-range forecasting include:

  1. Long-range forecasts are usually ill-structured; that is, it is impossible to make a really good mathematical model of what is being forecasted.
  2. Forecasting accuracy drops off rapidly as one looks further into the future. This is essentially because unforeseeable change accumulate as we peer further and further ahead.
  3. Forecasts need to mix subjective and objective information, since different kinds of information are being captured.
  4. The longer the horizon, the less objective information is available, the worse models will be, and the more we must rely on subjective forecasts.

Given that huge financial stakes are involved and that strategic decisions have a long horizon with poor forecasts available, it is hardly surprising that most Operations Management texts do not delve deeply into this problem. Many methods which are in practical use are not deeply quantitive, and are, in any event, difficult to describe and justify. Nevertheless, manufacturing executives do not have the luxury of ignoring strategic decision making and must be careful consumers of the best available methods.

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

Nontalent vs. Weakness


As you might expect, great managers take a welcomingly pragmatic view of our innate imperfection. They begin with an important distinction between weaknesses and nontalents. A nontalent is a mental wasteland. It is a behavior that always seems to be a struggle. It is a thrill that is never felt. It is an insight recurrently missed. In isolation, nontalents are harmless. You might have a nontalent for remembering names, being empathetic, or thinking strategically. Who cares? You have many more nontalents than you do talents, but most of them are irrelevant. You should ignore them.

 However, a nontalent can mutate into a weakness. A nontalent becomes a weakness when you find yourself in a role where success depends on your excelling in an area that is a nontalent. If you are a  server in a restaurant, your nontalent for remembering names becomes a weakness because regulars want you to recognize them. If you are a salesperson, your nontalent for empathey becomes a weakness because your prospects need to feel understood. If you are an executive, your nontalent for strategic thinking becomes a weakness because your company needs to know what traps or opportunities lie hidden over the horizon. You would be wise not to ignore your weaknesses.

 Great managers don’t. as soon as they realize that a weakness is causing the poor performance, they switch their approach. They know that there are only three possible routes to helping the person succeed. Devise a support system. Find a complementary partner. Or find an alternative role.  Great managers quickly bear down, weigh these options, and choose the best route.

 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

Managers are not just Leaders in Waiting


Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things.” Conventional wisdom is proud of maxims like this. It uses them to encourage managers to label themselves “leaders.” It casts the manager as the dependable plodder, while the leader is the sophisticated executive, scanning the horizon, strategizing. Since most people would rather be a sophisticated exective than a dependable plodder, this advice seems positive and developmental. It isn’t: it demeans the manager role but doesn’t succeed in doing much else. The difference between a manager and a leader is much more profound than most people think. The company that overlooks this difference will suffer for it.

 The most important difference between a great manager and a great leader is one of focus. Great managers look inward. They look inside the company, into each individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs, and motivation of each person. These differences are small, subtle, but great managers need to pay attention to them. These subtle differences guide them toward the right way to release each person’s unique talents into performance.

 Great leaders, by contrast, look outward. They look out at the competition, out at the future, out at alternative routes forward. They focus on broad patterns, finding connections, cracks, and then press home their advantage where the resistance is weakest. They must be visionaries, strategic thinkers, and activators. When played well, this is, without doubt, a critical role. But it doesn’t have much to do with the challenge of turning one individual’s talents into performance.

 Great managers are not mini-executives waiting for leadership to be thurst upon them. Great leaders are not simply managers who have developed sophistication. The core activities of a manager and a leader are simply different. It is entirely possible for a person to be a brilliant manager and a terrible leader. But it is just as possible for a person to excel as a leader and fail as manager. And, of course, a few exceptionally ralented individuals excel at both.

 If companies confuse the two roles by expecting every manager to be a leader, or if they define “leader” as simply a more advanced form of “manager,” then the all-important “catalyst” role will soon be undervalued, poorly understood, and poorly played. Gradually the company will fall apart.

 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