Enhancing Productivity


Productivity is important for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it clearly affects an organization’s ability to compete effectively. For another, it shapes the overall economic prosperity of the organization’s host country. In other words, productively created goods and services not only contribute to the home country’s economic health but allow organizations  to generate more revenues in the global economy.

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 Corporate Strategy


Business, government and society are independent and their relationship is complex in every nation. General systems theory tells us that all organisms or systems are affected by their host environments; thus, an organization must be appropriately responsive to changes and conditions in its environment to survive and succeed.

The web of interactions between business, government, and society creates a system of stakeholders—groups affected by and influential in corporate decisions and actions. The analysis of these stakeholders—who they are, what power they hold, and the ways in which they interact with one another—helps managers understand the nature of their concerns and needs and how these relationships are changing. If the creation of stakeholder networks is a natural process for organizations, managers must learn how to understand and utilize these relationships. The business of the 21st century must have managers who understand the importance of creating business strategies that include these considerations.

The relationship between business and society is also continuously changing. People, organizations, and social change; inevitably, new issues will arise and challenge managers to develop new solutions. To be effective, corporate strategy must respond to the biggest and most central questions in the public’s mind. People expect businesses to be competitive, to be profitable, and to act responsibly by meeting the reasonable expectations of stakeholders. The corporation of the 21st century is certain to be affected by global economic and political trends, powerful new technologies, and a global population of stakeholders who will expect their interests to be integrated into the thinking of the companies from which they buy goods and services, to which they contribute labor and ideas, and to which they extend the hospitality and support of their communities.

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 Constraints of Techno-stress


More than at any time in the history of our species, we are facing exploding levels of computerization and complication in our lives. Some of this seems beyond human control; for example, never being able to get through on the fax number because the system is programmed to the wrong mode. Offended by such a machine, many people naturally demand some satisfaction. Often a harmless oath, perhaps accompanied by a stiff thump, will satisfy our base urge for revenge.

On occasion, sterner punishments have been meted out. Childish retaliations against technology are doomed, and are wasteful of our limited time on this planet.

Of course, a lot of the techno-stress we encounter is self-inflicted by our unbridled love of gadget. With an array of office machines and household tools that would make the original James Bond seem a technological peasant, the average worker has invited a host of unnecessary mechanical inconveniences and breakdowns into his or her life to add to the overall levels of techno-stress.

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.

Corporate Social Strategy


Doing business in international settings presents many challenges to managers. There is no magic solution to meeting these issues as they arise. Companies can prepare for the types of challenges by designing a corporate social strategy that matches and balances the company’s economic strategy. These questions are a good place to start the process:

  • Are we being socially responsible in what we do? Do we meet the expectations of our host country as well as our home country? Would stakeholders in either country question our behavior?
  • Are we responsible to the stakeholders in each country where we do business? Do we treat employees, customers, suppliers, local communities, and others in a fair and just way?
  • Do we recognize emerging issues, as well as, immediate social issues, in the countries and communities where we operate? Are we anticipating change rather than just reacting to it?
  • Do we abide by the host government’s regulations and policies? Do we have good systems for ensuring that our employees and the agents who represent us follow or corporate policies?
  • Do we conduct business in ways that respect the values, customs, and moral principles of each society? Do we recognize that there may be times when they conflict with principles of other societies? Are we ready to address these conflicts in thoughtful, positive ways?

Companies that address these questions before trouble strikes are better prepared to meet global challenges to corporate responsibility. They are better prepared to prevent crises, anticipate change, and avoid situations that compromise the values and principles for which the company stands. A corporate social strategy helps managers achieve both the economic and the social goals of the 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.

Japan’s Manufacturing Techniques


Nations are built not with bricks and stones but with the capacity to create and apply knowledge. The result of knowledge creation and application in manufacturing and management practices is well demonstrated by Japan. Today we are witness to many industrialized economies that are strengthening their manufacturing activities simply by adopting these techniques.

The distinguishing characteristics associated with Japanese manufacturing techniques include an emphasis on designing and redesigning processes to optimize efficiency and a strong commitment to quality.

The manufacturing techniques that Japanese companies practice provide a competitive advantage and outstanding economic performance. The key for success is an understanding of the broad context of manufacturing culture, infrastructure and environment. These sound manufacturing and business techniques created and adopted by leading Japanese manufacturers have turned out to be the secret of their market leadership in many industries.

Following are a few of these concepts, which can help in managing any business set-up in a better way:

  • Kaizen is one such technique, which in Japanese means ‘improve.’ This is commonly recognized as practices focusing on continuous improvement in manufacturing activities, business activities in general, and even life in general, depending on interpretation and usage. By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen helps in eliminating waste.
  • Another management Japanese technique is the 5-S. It is a technique used to establish and maintain quality environment in an organization. It has five elements: Seiri (sorting out useful and frequently used materials and tools from unwanted and rarely used things); Seiton (keeping things in the right place systematically so that searching or movement time is minimized); Seiso (keeping everything around you clean and in a neat manner); Seiketsu (standardizing the above principles in everyday life) and Shitsuke (inculcating good habits and practicing them continuously). The 5-S practice helps everyone in the organization to live a better life.
  • Kanban and ‘Just in Time’ are two other practices in inventory management practices that were pioneered by the Japanese automobile manufacturers, such as Toyota. Quality improvement, on the other hand, is the result of lower proportion of component scrap since the components spend less time in the supply chain.
  • Poka-yoke is a process improvement focused on training of workers for mastering the increasingly complicated tasks to selectively redesign the tasks so they could be more easily and reliably mastered. It involves designing a foolproof process to eliminate the chance of errors.
  • Jidoka is a practice by means of which an individual worker runs several machines simultaneously. Japan thus designs such machines that eliminate both error and the need for constant supervision.
  • Muda is another technique that reduces wasteful activity in service processes. It ensures process efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Mura curiously combines rigidity and flexibility and thus teaches service process improvement.
  • Reducing Muri means reducing physical strain. In services process improvement, Muri applies to convoluted and unnecessary routings, physical transfer, and distances paper files may have to travel for a process to complete.
  • Genchi Gembutsu means going to the actual scene (genchi) and confirming the actual scene (gembutsu). Observation of service processes at the point where it is actually delivered may unearth a host of problems such as lack of training, unnecessary steps, or a number of other areas that would benefit from small but significant process improvement ideas.

This is a glimpse of manufacturing techniques that Japan has so intellectually created and so profoundly practiced in its manufacturing systems that even with no natural resources, it has acquired the status of one of the most industrialized nations. Can we learn from Japan?

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.

Drive


A person’s drive is not changeable. What drives him is decided by his mental filter, by the relative strength or weakness of the highways in his mind. His drives are, in fact, his striving talents.

Take the striving talent of competitiveness as an example. Some people have a four-lane highway for competition. Show them scores and they will instinctively try to use these scores to compare their performance with that of their peers. They love scores, because what you can measure you can compare, and if you can compare, you can compete.

However, people with a wasteland for competition will see the same scores and not feel any jolt of energy at all. Putting themselves on a level playing field, putting their best efforts against their peers, and winning means nothing to them. They rationalize their behavior by opining, “I don’t like competition; I prefer win-win scenarios,” or the classic, “I prefer to compete with myself.” But these comments are just signs that their filter is, understandably, trying to describe itself in the most positive light.

The truth is that they are not competitive. There is nothing good or bad about this. It is simply who they are. And there is not much that either they or you, their manager, can do about it.

Similarly some people have a four-lane highway for constant achievement, a striving talent we call achiever. They may not have to win, but they do feel a burning need to achieve something tangible every single day. And these kind of people mean, “every single day.” For them every day—workday, weekend, vacation—everyday starts at zero. They have to rack up some numbers by the end of the day in order to feel good about themselves. This burning flame may dwindle as evening comes, but the next morning it rekindles itself, spurring its host to look for new items to cross off his list. These people are the fabled “self-starters.”

Not all roles require employees to possess this striving talent of achiever. Nurses, for example, do not have to generate all of their drive from within. Instead they have to respond caringly and efficiently to the urgent needs that face them everyday—for nurses the altruistic striving talent mission is much more important than achiever. But if you manage roles that do require achiever—like an insurance agent, a pharmaceutical salesperson, or any role where the person must initiate rather than respond—then remember; You had better select for it. Because if a person does not feel this burning fire, you cannot light it for him.

The same applies to all striving talents: the need to be of service, the need to be on stage, the need to be seen as competent, the need to help others grow. All of these drives are talents, and therefore they have the same characteristics as other talents. Namely, they are part of each person’s mental filter. They are unique and enduring.

A manager can never breathe motivational life into someone else. All she can do is try to identify each employee’s striving four-lane highways and then, as far as is possible, cultivte them.

When describing human behavior, stick to the clarity of skills, knowledge, and talents. Tread carefully when using habits or competencies—they lump too much together rather haphazardly. Likewise, if you feel a need to use attitude or drive, be cautious. Remember that a person’s drive and his prevailing attitudes are talents, and as such, they are very hard to change. When you hear yourself berating the person to “get a better attitude,” watch out. You might be asking him to tackle the impossible.

None of this implies that a person cannot change. Everyone can change. Everyone can learn. Everyone can get a little better. The language of skills, knowledge, and talents simply helps a manager identify where radical change is possible and where it is not.

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

The Dynamics of Social Responsibility


The various stakeholders of a firm can be divided into inside stakeholders and outside stakeholders. The insiders are the individuals or groups that are stakeholders or employees of the firm. The outsiders are all the other individuals or groups that the firm’s actions affect. The extremely large and often amorphous set of outsiders makes the general claim that the firm be socially responsible.

Perhaps the thorniest issues faced in defining a company mission are those that pertain to responsibility. The stakeholder approach offers the clearest perspective on such issues. Broadly stated, outsiders often demand that insider’s claims be subordinated to the greater good of the society; that is, to the greater good of the outrsiders. They believe that such issues as pollution, the disposal of solid and liquid wastes, and the conservation of natural resources should be principal consideration in strategic decision making. Also broadly stated, insiders tend to believe that the competing claims of outsiders should be balanced against one another in a way that protects the company mission. For example, they tend to believe that the need of consumers for a product should be balanced against the water pollution resulting from its production if the firm cannot eliminate that pollution entirely and still remain profitable. Some insiders also argue that the claims of society, as expressed in government regulation, provide tax money that can be used to eliminate water pollution and the like if the general public wants this to be done.

The issues are numerous, complex, and contingent on specific situations. Thus, rigid rules of business conduct cannot deal with them. Each firm regardless of size must decide how to meet its perceived social responsibility. While large, well-capitalized companies may have easy access to environmental consultants, this is not an affordable strategy for smaller companies. However, the experience of many small businesses demonstrates that it is feasible to accomplish significant pollution prevention and waste reduction without big expenditures and without hiring consultants. Once a problem area has been identified, a company’s line employees frequently can develop a solution. Other important pollution prevention strategies include changing the materials used or redesigning how operations are bid out. Making pollution prevention a social responsibility can be beneficial to smaller companies. Publicly traded firms also can benefit directly from socially responsible strategies.

Different approaches adopted by different firms reflect differences in competitive position, industry, country, environmental and ecological pressures, and a host of other factors. In other words, they will reflect both situational factors and differing priorities in the acknowledgement of claims. Obviously, winning the loyalty of the growing legions of consumers will require new marketing strategies and new alliances in the 21st Century. Many marketers already have discovered these new marketing realities by adopting strategies called the “4 Es.” 1) make it easy for the consumer to be green, 2) empower consumers with solutions, 3) enlist the support of the consumer, and 4) establish credibility with all publics and help to avoid a backlash.

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