Coping with Red Tape


No business operates in a vacuum or under a glass dome. New businesses are subject to the pressures and requirements of society’s legal and regulatory system. If you need a trademark, a company brand, or a patent, or if you’re thinking of becoming incorporated, you will definitely need legal help. Many other situations require the help of a lawyer too.

Likewise, you’ll be coping with government regulations, many of which were written with larger businesses in mind are applied to SMEs anyway. Disposing off hazardous wastes, for example, may be difficult for small companies, which typically lack their own water-treatment facilities. Similarly, small businesses may have problems complying with disabilities laws, designed to ensure that disabled consumers receive the same level of services as other customers. Thus SMEs may be required to make costly modifications to their facilities or prove that doing so would pose an economic hardship.

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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Disadvantages of Sole Proprietorship


What may be seen as an advantage by one person may turn out to be a disadvantage to another. The goals and talents of the individual owner are the deciding factors. For profitable businesses managed by capable owners, many of the following factors do not cause problems. On the other hand, proprietors starting out with little management experience and little money are likely to encounter many of the disadvantages.

  1. Unlimited Liability: The sole proprietor has unlimited liability in meeting the debts of the business. In other words, if the business cannot pay its creditors, the owner may be forced to use personal, non-business holdings such as a car or a home to pay off the debts. The more wealth an individual has, the greater is the advantage of unlimited liability.
  2. Limited Sources of Funds: Among the relatively few sources of money available to the sole proprietorship are a bank, friends, family, or his or her own funds. The owner’s personal financial condition, then, determines his or her credit standing. Often the only way a sole proprietor can borrow for business purposes is to pledge a car, a house, or other real estate, or other personal assets to guarantee the loan. And if the business fails, the owner may lose the personal assets as well as the business. Publically owned corporations, in contrast, can not only obtain funds from commercial banks but can sell stocks and bonds to the public to raise money. If a public company goes out of business, the owners do not lose personal assets.
  3. Limited Skills: The role proprietor must be able to perform many functions and possess skills in diverse fields such as management, marketing, finance, accounting, bookkeeping, and personnel. Although the owner can rely on specialized professionals to provide advice, he or she must make the final decision in each of these areas.
  4. Lack of Continuity: The life expectancy of a sole proprietorship is directly related to that of the owner and his or her ability to work. The serious illness of the owner could result in failure if competent help cannot be found.
  5. Lack of qualified Employees: It is usually difficult for a small sole proprietorship to match the wages and benefits offered by a large competing corporation because the proprietorship’s level of profits may not be as high. In addition, there is little room for advancement within a sole proprietorship, so the owner may have difficulty attracting and retaining qualified employees.
  6. Taxation: Although it is considered that taxation is an advantage for sole proprietorships, it can also be a disadvantage, depending on the proprietor’s income. Under current tax rates, sole proprietors pay a higher marginal tax rate than do small corporations. The tax often determines whether a sole proprietor chooses to incorporate his or her business.

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.

Improving Quality


Improving quality is a lot like taking vitamins, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. Although the results may not be immediate, long-term benefits are significant. Quality is neither a quick fix nor the program of the month, but rather a way of life for companies who are serious about improvements.

Quality is a fundamental to creating value, yet it is a moving target and must meet the customers’ current definition of quality. Thus, we offer the following recommendations for improving service quality and ultimately delivering superior customer value:

  • Design services in cooperation with customers. Learn what customers truly value by incorporating the voice of the customer earlier in the service development process. Also, it is important to determine not only the customers’ preferred service attributes but their relative importance, as well.
  • Focus your improvement programs outward, on market break points. Only by defining those episodes, when the customer comes in contact with the organization, and by focusing on the ones most critical can you see things as the customer sees them. Also, visualize the complete sequence of the moments of truth a customer experiences in having some need met. Remember, the customer sees service in terms of a total experience, not an isolated set of activities. Mapping the service cycle helps companies see these activities as the customer sees them.
  • Create a triangle representation of service quality. Hotels and restaurants often advertise and display on their properties ratings by one of the major motor clubs, such as AAA or Mobil Oil, Hertz #1 Gold Club service communicates a premium, value-added bundle of services to business travelers seeking a hassle-free car rental experience.
  • Use teamwork to promote service excellence—service workers who support one another and achieve together can avoid service burnout.
  • Create a service bias based on each of the following service quality determinants: professionalism, attitudes and behaviors, accessibility and flexibility, reliability and trustworthiness, service recovery, and reputation and credibility. These criteria can be used as guidelines for influencing positive service quality perceptions.
  • Develop proper measurements. Use metrics that are specific on nature, such as 95% on-time-delivery, customer wait time, or order processing time. Benchmark the best practices for each service are being measured, such as wait time or order delivery.
  • Employee selection, job design, and training are absolutely crucial to building customer satisfaction and service quality. Structure the job of service workers to maximize their ability to respond quickly and competently to customer needs. Also, train service personnel in areas of service delivery and attitude. Role play different service scenarios, showing various service recovery strategies. Provide service workers with some basic tools to help control service quality variation and uncover service problems.
  • Reward total quality efforts in marketing. Look for opportunities to reinforce quality behaviors when they occur. Employees should be rewarded ob the basis of these behaviors (commitment, effort) rather than strictly on outcomes, such as sales quotas. Rewarding a salesperson for meeting or exceeding quota with a bonus while giving a nominal award such as a pin or plaque to the person who fixes the product or process sends a clear message about the importance of quality.
  • Think of service as a process, not a series of functions. Service quality occurs when the entire service experience is managed and the organization is aligned to respond accordingly.

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.

Managerial Practices


  • One of the most important responsibilities of management is to lead the organization to develop a hierarchy of strategic intent that incorporates and mutually supportive set of vision, mission, goals, and objectives.
  • As a leader developing a vision, seek out the ideas and ideals that will inspire an organization and motivate its members to work toward greatness.
  • In developing a mission statement, remember that organization serve multiple stakeholder groups and identify how your organization will address the needs of its most important stakeholders.
  • Develop goals that support the organization’s mission, that address the need for balance among various stakeholder groups, and that “stretch” the organization.
  • In identifying objectives, develop measurable targets, but be mindful of the possible unintended consequences of such measurement.
  • Remember the difference between an intended strategy and a realized strategy and be careful not to confuse the two in your consideration and discussion of strategy.
  • Strategies for simple, stable business may be successfully implemented using strategic programming, while strategies for organizations facing complex and/or unpredictable situations will usually require organizational learning, and overwhelming complexity and dynamism may force adoption of an incrementalist approach.
  • Remember the key distinguishing feature between strategic programming and organizational learning: in strategic programming, the firm can realistically separate planning and doing, strategy formulation and implementation. In organizational learning, a firm assumes that it cannot realistically tell in advance how the future will unfold or what will work, and it therefore intertwines formulations and implementation, continually adjusting its strategy as it gains new insights through a trail-and-error process of learning by doing.
  • Do not assume that either a pure strategic programming approach or a pure organizational learning approach is right for your organization. Most organizations need a blend of the two and, consequently, managers need to understand both.
  • You should recognize that although there is nothing inherently wrong with strategic programming, the incidence of “mechanistic” organizations that can successfully depend on this approach is shrinking. Shifts in the nature of business have made it more important for organizations to become more “organic” and to place greater emphasis on organizational learning.
  • Remember the limitations of each of the three major perspectives on strategic management,: rational planning, incrementalism, and organizational learning. Develop a willingness to draw from all three perspectives to improve your effectiveness.

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 Lacking Commitment


Why do so many senior people appear hesitant and half-hearted? Why are the communications concerning change programs so anemic, especially when coming from those who have little difficulty in putting their points across in other contexts?

We have to get at the roots of ambivalence. The reasons for concern, quiet dissent, and reluctance to commit need to be probed:

  • Apparent support may only mean that those concerned are crawlers, bootlickers and toadies. There is often reluctance to accept the reality that all manner of loathsome and self-serving creatures inhabit the corridors of corporate bureaucracy. Their wiles, and the games they play, which are so transparent to outsiders, and destructive of external relationships built upon mutual trust and respect, go unnoticed or are ignored within.
  • Those who appear difficult may be the individuals with intellectual reservations. These could relate to the application of a program in a particular area, or to an initiative as a whole. The objectors could be the ones who have thought it through and uncovered missing elements. An implementation process needs to incorporate a means of listening to, and learning from, those who have valid objections.
  • Also, not all customers have the same preferences. What is added value for one person may be regarded as an expensive luxury by other.

Bland ‘motherhood’ statements suggest people have not thought through what needs to be done. People judge by what they see rather than on the basis of what is said. The informal messages, the examples and the symbols, can undercut formal communications.

Too often the changes of attitudes that are sought are not reflected in the language used by managers, the anecdotes and war stories that make up the mythology of a company, in symbols such as the allocation of parking spaces or use of exercise facilities, and in how a myriad of day-to-day matters are handled. Changing structures and processes may not be followed by attitudes where managers themselves, and particularly senior managers, refuse to act as role models.

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.

Approaches to Change


Axelrod discusses in his book titled: Terms of Engagement, four approaches to change: i) Leader-driven approach, ii) Process-driven approach, iii) Team-driven approach, and iv) Change Management approach.

Leader-driven change is more suitable for small and medium enterprises with owner-managers. This approach works well when the manager or leader has all the necessary information and knowledge. Leader-driven changes tend to be directive and non-participative. Therefore this approach is less suitable when: a) the workforce is young and/or highly skilled, b) the business environment is complex and dynamic, and c) successful change requires active involvement of a number of people in the organization.

Process-driven changes are led by experts or outside consultants and supported by the leader; these changes are more common in large, bureaucratic organizations. This approach works well when the change requires technical or specialized expertise. Also being directive and non-participative, as in the case of leader-driven approach, this approach is therefore less suitable when: a) the workforce is young and/or highly skilled, b) the business environment is complex and dynamic, and c) successful change requires active involvement of a number of people in the organization.

Team-driven approaches are most common in large, manufacturing enterprises that have skilled and educated employees. Change management strategies—such as TQM, Quality Circles, and Six Sigma—exemplify this approach. These are highly participative change efforts that empower employees and provide them with involvement, participation and ownership of change. Team-based approaches that are properly executed can unleash enormous levels of employee energy and motivation. This can, in turn, lead to innovation and productivity gains. However, using this approach can also cause some discomfort for managers in an organization because they may not be used to sharing their power and authority with workers. Moreover, this approach requires managers to shift from a directive, authoritarian style based on power and expertise to a participative style based on persuasion, coaching and helping. More importantly, the team-based approach to execute change requires the establishment of a ‘parallel organization.’

The fourth approach to change is called the Change Management approach. This is a combination of expert-driven and team-driven approaches. Whereas the former provides a business and technical focus to change, the latter generates ownership, involvement and commitment. So as to gain this commitment, most specialists, experts and change management consultants have incorporated the parallel organization concept in their process-driven approach. The Change Management paradigm is the approach to change that most organizations use today. Although it seemingly seeks to integrate ownership of change with practical business focus, the Change Management approach has shortcomings. Instead of involvement and commitment, this approach breeds cynicism, bureaucracy and resistance. It actually disempowers employees, by reinforcing hierarchical top-down management.

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

Value Stream Management


The value stream management method is a strategic and operational approach designed to help a company or complete supply chain achieve a lean status. It has its antecedents grounded in the Value Stream Mapping approach but seeks to overcome some of the problems and drawbacks of this earlier approach. Value Stream Management also incorporates various education and policy deployment stages to make it a far better basis for ongoing company or supply chain development. The new approach can be divided into individual and consecutive stages.

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

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