Death of a Wonder Youngster

Arfa Karim (born 1995 – January 14, 2012), was a student from an under-developed village of Pakistan, who in 2004 at the age of 9 years, became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in the world. She was invited by Bill Gates to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in USA. She also wrote a poem about Bill Gates.

On returning to Pakistan, Arfa had numerous interviews on almost all of the country’s known television channels and newspapers. In August 2005, Arfa Karim received the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of Science and Technology, presented by the Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time. She also received the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award again in August 2005 by the President of Pakistan. Arfa Karim is also the recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance. This is a very high level civil award granted to people who have shown excellence in their respective fields over a long period of time. Arfa is till now the youngest recipient of that award ever.

Arfa Karim has also represented Pakistan on various international forums, she was invited by the IT Professionals of Dubai for a stay of two weeks in Dubai. A dinner reception was hosted for her there, which was attended by the diagnostics of Dubai including the Ambassador of Pakistan. During that trip, Arfa was presented with various medals and awards. She also flew a plane in a flying club in Dubai at the age of 10, and received the first flight certificate.

In November 2006, Arfa was invited by Microsoft to be a part of the keynote session in the Tech-Ed Developers conference held in Barcelona. The theme of the conference was “Get ahead of the game” and Arfa was presented as a true specimen of being ahead of the game. She was the only Pakistani among over 5000 developers in that conference.

As of 2011, at the age of 16, Arfa Karim was studying at Lahore Grammar School Paragon Campus in her second year of A Levels. She suffered from cardiac arrest after an epileptic seizure on December 22, 2011 and was admitted to Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in critical condition.

On January 2, 2012 Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the hospital with his daughter Fiza Batol Gilani to inquire about the health of Arfa Karim.

On January 9, 2012, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, has made contact with Arfa’s parents, and directed his doctors to adopt “every kind of measure” for her treatment.

On January 13, 2012, The condition of world’s youngest MCP Arfa Karim was improving and some parts of her brain showed signs of improvement. Arfa fell desperately ill last month and doctors said she had suffered brain damage, leaving her in a coma at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Lahore. Her father, Amjad Karim, said Microsoft had raised the possibility of flying Arfa to the US for care.

On January 14, 2012 16 years old Arfa Karim died at 9:50 PM (Pakistan Standard Time) at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Lahore. (Wikipedia)

Arfa wrote some poems. Specimens include:

I would like to be …..

Like a bird in the sky
Flying freely and so high
Like a fish in the water
And the kings beautiful daughter

Like a tiny little mouse
Eating cheese around the house
Like a bear in the mountain
And the water in the fountain

Like a lion in the jungle
Roaring loudly with hunger
Like a monkey in the zoo
All the time copying you
. . . . Arfa Karim

White Rose

In the storm
Stands the white rose
tumultuous waves
of destruction abound her

Yet tall is the white rose
strong in the face
Of the sensed doom around her
And she does not bow down

Pure is the white rose
In the compost earth
growing eternal strength
in the nights that so hurt

I see not the white rose
She is so far away
But I long to protect her
But only the words can I say

So I send her my words
And my poets heart
To help her when
there is hope to see her through

Be Strong little flower
Your heart will guide true
And as long as you want
I will always talk to you
. . . Arfa Karim


  I look to the sky at night and admire the beauty of the stars.
I stand in awe of their brilliance;
They are as shining and constant
and they have been since the beginning of time.

They light the heavens and fill our hearts with wonder.
When one burns out, another takes its place;
for they are eternal.
Wherever you are, they guide you from their home high above the earth.
At times, they seem close enough to touch,
as they transport your dreams far away.

Their magic compels us to offer up wishes for their consideration.
They make us realize that even when the sky is the darkest,
a tiny beacon of light still shines through.
They are God’s reminder to us that some things really do go on forever.
. . . Arfa Karim

I have no daughter, but Arfa Karim was a daughter figure.  Till 3:30 am and despite my perpetual efforts I was unable to have a snooze. The news about her death made me so upset that my eyes welled up tears and my heart filled up with gloom. Arfa, was the shine of the moon and the breeze of morning; she bestowed her colors to rainbow; she left behind her wings for her fellow daughters to scale the heights of knowledge. Arfa was a complete person: she was not just a book worm, she used to play games, watch cartoon programs, fly planes, play music, and sing folk songs. Above all she memorized some verses of Qur’an and practiced high moral character. She can be a role model—an inspiration—to our younger generation. With tears in its eyes, I pay rich tribute to Arfa. Nevertheless, I feel her saying:

Don’t cry for me,
I’m right here.
Although you can’t see me
I can see your tears

Sun Tzu’s Advice to Strategy Makers

More than 2300 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, an amazing book on the principles of military strategy. Herebelow are some idea extracts:

  1. Adopt SOSTAC. He believed that it is essential first to carry out a complete analysis of the situation. The strengths and weaknesses of one’s position, the relationship between one’s goals and the goals of society at large, the intensity of one’s courage and determination, and the worthiness and integrity of one’s objective must all be carefully evaluated. Even then, it seems, SOSTAC (Situation Analysis, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics, Action, and Control) was emerging—situation analysis, objectives and strategy.
  2. Do your Homework. Those who triumph, compute at their headquarters, a great number of factors, prior to a challenge. Those who are defeated, compute at their headquarters, a small number of factors, prior to a challenge. Much computation brings triumph, little computation brings defeat. How much more so with no computation at all. By observing only this, I can see triumph or defeat.
  3. Develop some options. Therefore those who are not entirely aware of strategies that are disadvantageous, cannot be entirely aware of strategies that are advantageous.
  4. Know your Resources. You must be certain that your resources have been carefully evaluated before engaging in this challenge.
  5. Why senior management Support: before engaging in a challenge, a leader must be certain that the organization is prepared to support the expense of a confrontation.
  6. Do you hurt your market or environment? Brilliant leaders are always aware of the entire system, both inside and outside of their organizations. They know that to harm or destroy what is outside will hurt their own growth, while employing their rivals and incorporating their resources will enhance their strategy.
  7. Put everything in place before making a move. Sun Tzu believed that a true victory can be won only with a strategy of tactical positioning, so that the moment of triumph is effortless and destructive conflict is avoided even before considering a confrontation – for whatever purpose.

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, and my Lectures.

The Importance of Motivation

One of the manager’s primary tasks is to motivate people in the organization to perform at high levels. This means getting them to work hard, come to work regularly, and make positive contributions to the organization’s mission. But job performance depends on ability and environment as well as on motivation.

To each high levels of performance, an employee must want to 1) do the motivation, 2) be able to demonstrate ability, and 3) have the materials and equipment needed to maintain the environment. A deficiency in any one of these areas will hurt performance. A manager thus should strive to enter that all three conditions are met.

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, and my Lectures.


Defining Norms

A norm is a standard against which the appropriateness of a behavior is judged. Thus, a norm is the expected behavior or behavioral pattern in a certain situation. Group norms usually are established during the second stage of group development (communication and decision making) and carried forward into the maturity stage. People often have expectations about the behavior of others. By providing a basis for predicting others’ behaviors, norms enable people to formulate response behaviors. Without norms, the activities within a group would be chaotic. Norms serve four purposes:

  1. Norms help the group survive. Groups tend to reject deviant behavior that does not contribute to accomplishing group goals or to the survival of the group if it is threatened. Accordingly, a successful group that is not under threat may be more tolerant or deviant behavior.
  2. Norms simplify and make more predictable the behaviors expected of group members. Norms mean that members do not have to analyze each behavior and decide on a response. Members can anticipate the actions of others on the basis of group norms. When members do what is expected of them, the group is more likely to be productive and to reach its goals.
  3. Norms help the group avoid embarrassing situations. Group members often want to avoid damaging other members’ self-images and are likely to avoid certain subjects that might hurt a member’s feelings.
  4. Norms express the central values of the group and identify the group to others. Certain clothes, mannerisms, or behaviors in particular situations may be a rallying point for members and may signify to others the nature of the group.

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, and my Lectures.


Marketing Communications Strategy

Strategies vary depending on the primary audience—customers, distributors, opinion formers, and stakeholders. The stakeholders require a message that communicates the organization’s values rather than specific offerings, whereas the customers may want specific product offerings and benefits.

Strategic options must be generated before deciding on a final strategy. It is highly unlikely that the first communications strategy that emerges is going to be the best one. Herebelow are some points to be remembered while making a strategy:

  • Objectives, strategy, tactics, action, and control.
  • Do your homework.
  • Develop some options.
  • Know your resources.
  • Win senior management support.
  • Do not hurt the environment.
  • Put everything in place before making a move.

This prepares the way for the development of good strategies. When the strategic options have been developed, they can be compared in order to determine which strategy is more likely to deliver the best result.

Remember, ‘STOP & SIT.’ Ask whether the communications strategy breaks up the market into segments and targets the right customers. Will the strategy fulfill the marketing and communications objectives? Is the positioning made crystal clear? What sequence of integrated communications tools will be used? Musts for communicators are:

  • Always define precisely your audience.
  • Avoid the predictable.
  • Keep the message simple.
  • Use power tools (images that last).
  • Say what only you can say.

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, and my Lectures.

Setting the Example

One of the best ways to get people to achieve excellence is to inspire them through your own example. No matter how much you talk or what you do, if you aren’t stretching and growing, if you aren’t giving until it hurts, forget about asking them to do so.

Most Olympic athletes got to where they are because they were inspired by an Olympic athlete who preceded them. Few of us, if any, have the capacity to be self-inspired. We need another person to help light the flame. You are their role model. How your people perform will always reflect to some degree the behavior and ideals you live out day-to-day basis.

Virtually everything you do in some way implies a standard to your people—the way you dress, the way you interact with peers and superiors, whether or not you start your meetings on time, the quality of your work. It is a good idea to do a quick check on yourself from time to time to see if you are performing the way you want your people to perform.

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, and my Lectures.

Delighting the Customer

Companies need to delight customers to gain a competitive edge. The delight is referred to as a profoundly positive emotional state that results from having  one’s expectations exceeded to a surprising degree. The type of service that results in delight is “positively outrageous service”—that which is unexpected, random, extraordinary, and disproportionately positive.

A way that managers can conceive of delight I to consider product and service features in terms of concentric rings. The innermost bull’s eye refers to attributes that are central to the basic function of the product or service, called musts. Their provision isn’t particularly noticeable, but their absence would be. Around the musts is a ring called satisfiers: features that have the potential to further satisfaction beyond the basic function of the product. At the next and final outer level are delights, product features that are unexpected and surprisingly enjoyable. These are things that consumers would not expect to find and are therefore highly surprised and sometimes excited when they receive them. For example, in your classes the musts consist of professors, rooms, syllabus, and class meetings. Satisfiers might include professors who are entertaining and friendly, interesting lectures, and good audio-visual aids. A delight might include a free textbook for students signing up for the course.

Delighting customers may seem like a good idea, but this level of service provision comes with extra effort and cost to the firm. Therefore the benefits of providing delight must be weighed. Among the considerations are the staying power and competitive implications of delight.

Staying power involves the question of how long a company can expect an experience of delight to maintain the customer’s attention. If it is fleeting and the customer forgets it immediately, it may not be worth the cost. Alternatively, if the customer remembers the delight and adjusts her level of expectation upward accordingly, it will cost the company more just to satisfy, effectively raising the bar for the future. Delighting customers does in fact raise expectations and make it more difficult for a company to satisfy customers in the future.

The competitive implication of delight relates to its impact on expectations of other firms in the same industry.if a competitor in the same industry is unable to copy the delight strategy, it will be disadvantaged by the consumer’s increased expectations. If you were offered that free textbook in one of your classes, you might then expect to receive one in each of your classes. Those classes not offering the free textbook might not have high enrollment levels compared to the delighting class. If a competitor can easily copy the delight strategy, however, neither firm benefits (although the consumer does), and all firm may be hurt because their cost increase and profit erode. The implication is that if companies choose to delight, they should do so in areas that cannot be copied by other firms.

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, Line of Sight

Financial Analysis: Real Problems

The term financial analysis  when applied to new products conjures up visions of sales forecasts and profit calculations. By using traditional financial analysis, we can get a good read on the current proposal.

 Actually, sales forecasts and financial analysis systems are no problem as such. We have an immense warhead of forecasting methodologies, most based on many years of experience. We know, for example, what makes for sales. This model does an excellent job and serves as the basis for some very advanced mathematical systems used by some of the most sophisticated new product marketers in the world. And every firm has people who can make an income-statement-based net present value calculation (using discounted cash flow methods). We have had years of experience with it.

 The financial model requires product cost, prices, the current value of money, probable taxes on the future income, the amount of further capital investments that will be required between now and when we close the books on the product and much more.

 They will never be certain, even after living out the product’s life cycle. Sales will be known, but we might have had a better marketing strategy. Costs are always just estimates. We will never know the true extent to which a new item cannibalized sales from another product. If we had not marketed the new item a competitor probably would have. And on and on.

 The fact is, we rely on estimated. Management’s task is ot to make the estimates as we can and then manage around the areas of uncertainty in a way that we do’t get hurt too badly.

 On minor product improvements we do this pretty well. On near line extensions, we also do well, but with more misses. Totally new products, using technologies never so applied before, are pure guessing games.

 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, Line of Sight

The Ethos of Great Managers

Smart individual performers keep getting moved into manager positions without the slightest idea of what the manager role is, let alone the ability to play it. They are sent to leadership development courses, but they come back more impressed with their mini-executive status than with the day-to-day challenges of being a good manager.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the manager role is no longer very important. Apparently managers are now an impediment to speed, flexibility, and agility. Today’s agile companies can no longer afford to employ armies of managers to shuffle papers, sign approvals, and monitor performance. They need self-reliant, self motivated, self-directed work teams. No wonder managers are first against the wall when the reengineering revolution came.

Every manager should be a leader. He must seize opportunity, using his smarts and impatience to exert his will over a fickle world. In this world, the staid little manager is a misfit. It is too quick for him, too exciting, too dangerous. He had better stay out of the way. He might get hurt.

Today’s business pressures are more intense. Companies need self-reliant employees and aggressive leaders. But all this does not diminish the importance of managers. In turbulent times the manager is more important than ever because managers play a vital and distinct role, a role that charismatic leaders and self-directed teams are incapable of playing. The manager role is to reach inside each employee and release his unique talents into performance. This role is best played one employee at a time: one manager asking questions of, listening to, and working with one employee. Multiplied a thousand fold, this one-by-one role is the company’s power supply. In times of great change it is this role that makes the company robust enough to stay focused when needed, yet robust enough to flex without breaking.

Thus the manager role is the catalyst role. As with all catalysts, the manager’s function is to speed up the reaction between two substances, thus creating the desired end product. Specifically the manager creates performance in each employee by speeding up the reaction between the employee’s talents and the company’s goals, and between the employee’s talents and the customers’ needs. When hundreds of managers play this role well, the company becomes strong.

In today’s slimmed-down business world, most of these managers also shoulder other responsibilities. They are expected to be subject matter experts, individual superstars, and sometimes leaders in their own right. These are important roles, which great managers execute with varying styles and degrees of success. But when it comes to the manager aspect of the responsibilities, great managers all excel at this catalyst role.

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, Line of Sight