Individual Power


Power involves the potential to influence others successfully—both the things they do and the ways they feel about something. The individual bases of power are the factors that give people the capacity to influence others successfully.

It is an inevitable fact of organizational life that some individuals can boast a greater capacity to influence the people around them than others. In other words, power is definitely not distributed equally in most organizations.

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.

Elements of Public Policy


The governmental action of any nation can be understood in terms of several basic elements of public policy. Many factors, or inputs, influence the development of public policy. Government may determine its course of action on the basis of economic or foreign policy concerns, domestic political pressure from constituents and interest groups, technical information, and ideas that have emerged in national politics. Public policy also may be influenced by technical studies of complex issues such as taxation or the development of new technologies such as fiber optic electronics. All of these inputs can help shape what the government chooses to do and how it chooses to do it.

Public policy goals can be noble and high-minded or narrow and self-serving. National values, such as freedom, democracy, and equal opportunity for citizens to share in economic prosperity—that is, high-minded public policy goals—have led to the adoption of civil rights laws assistance programs for those in need. Narrow, self-serving goals are more evident when nations decide how tax legislation will allocate the burden of taxes among various interests and income groups. Public policy goals may vary widely, but it is always important to inquire: what public goals are being served by this action?

Governments use different public policy tools, or instruments, to achieve their policy goals. In general, the instruments of public policy are those combinations of incentives and penalties that government uses to prompt citizens, including businesses, to act in ways that achieve policy goals. Governmental regulatory powers are broad and constitute one of the most formidable instruments for accomplishing public purposes.

Public policy actions always have effects. Some are intended, others are unintended. Because public policies affect many people, organizations, and other interests, it is almost inevitable that such actions will please some and displease others. Regulations may cause businesses to improve the way toxic substances are used in the workplace, thus reducing health risks to employees. Yet it is possible that other goals may be obstructed as an unintended effect of compliance with such regulations.

In assessing any public policy, it is important for managers to develop answers to four questions:

  • What inputs will affect the public policy?
  • What goals are to be achieved?
  • What instruments are being used to achieve goals?
  • What effects, intended and unintended, are likely to occur?

The answers to these questions provide a foundation for understanding how any nation’s public policy actions will affect the economy and business sector.

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.

Constant Challenge


This is clear when you consider how people find jobs in the first place. For many people their whole career history is laced with luck and chance: being in the job market when a certain company was recruiting, seeing a certain advert, knowing someone who knew someone. Many people not in a true vocation have little real idea about the job or company they start working for before they actually start the job.

Some people pick losers and are repeatedly made redundant, or take several jobs before they find something that fits. Other people pick winners in the job lottery, walk into their first position and stay there all their working life.

Nothing wrong with that from a personal point of view, but the last thing these people want to do is rock the best by pushing themselves or indeed anyone else (except those lower down the pecking order) out of their comfort zones.

This inevitably creates stuffy, complacent business. What incentive is there for these people to take risks or leave when they don’t think they will ever find another job half as cushy as the current one?

What is more, when an employee has several years of service under their belt, disgruntled employers will duck this issue, thinking that they will be too costly and difficult to move on.

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.

Conflicts over Authority


Conflicts over authority are inevitable. As people battle over territory, they will battle over who has how much authority over whom. It is a problem that is unavoidable, however, there are things that can be done to minimize the severity of the problem. Here are some guidelines for avoiding conflicts over authority:

  • When assigning authority to a job, make sure the authority does not inappropriately usurp the authority of other jobs in the department or in other areas within the company.
  • Make sure the person clearly understands the authority that has been assigned to him.
  • Make sure that everyone concerned with the person understands the authority assigned to him.
  • Establish a system of controls for ensuring that the person is exercising his authority correctly.

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 your Planning Skills


All too often, managers develop elaborate plans only to have them collect dust on a shelf or in a file drawer. To be an effective management tool, a plan must be continually monitored and updated. Your goals and objectives must be a part of your monthly, weekly, and daily plans or they will become victims of the daily crises and interruptions that inevitably fight for your time. It’s important to spend some time every day working toward accomplishing your goals.

Evaluate and update your plan on a regular basis. If your plan is detailed and specific, it should be quite simple to manage by:

  • Using target dates for various phases of the project. Be sure that expectations, latitude, and due dates are clear and agreed upon with others.
  • Delegating responsibility (and appropriate decision-making authority) to the right person or people.
  • Requesting status reports from your employees on their progress toward goals.
  • Monitoring and following up on progress. By documenting performance against your plans (for example, budgeted vs. actual labor) you will be better able to evaluate results and develop realistic plans for future projects.
  • Intervening and adjusting plans when necessary.

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.

Managing Cash and Liquidity


In a turbulent environment, cash returns are important, if not more important, than reported profit returns. Cash returns lead to liquidity, and liquidity is a top priority consideration whenever risks and uncertainties surround a business situation, as they do in so many cases today. Cash and liquidity put any company in a better position to withstand a surprise blow, adapt to sudden changes, and capitalize on the narrower windows of opportunity that are commonplace in a turbulent environment.

This doesn’t mean that profits and profit growth are not important. The whole purpose of any business enterprise is to maximize profits and profit growth, but this objective will  not be achieved if business unit managers do not focus more time and attention on managing their cash and liquidity. Any entrepreneur that has lived through a start-up knows the importance of cash and liquidity. The entrepreneur knows from experience that a business can go bankrupt even while it is reporting profits. But it will never go bankrupt as long as its cash and liquidity positions are strong. Most corporate executives understand this point also, but many do not follow through to make sure it is sufficiently stressed or understood at the operating level. This is where the problem lies. Most business unit managers who operate under a corporate umbrella tend to overlook the importance of managing their own cash and liquidity and look instead to the corporation as a never ending source of funds.

The results are apparent in most corporations. Capital expenditure proposals tend to be a “wish list” often justified on project volume gains or cost savings that never occur. Working capital is allowed to build without adequate regard for carrying costs on the cash commitment. In short, overinvestment in plant and equipment, and working capital often serves as a buffer to cover sloppy business practices and control. These are practices that inevitably lead to an investment base that is too big for the business and to marginal profit returns.

Many operating managers in a corporation are not even aware of the costs incurred while excess capital is tied up in the business. This is not an exaggeration. Just ask any four or five business unit managers how much it costs to carry their inventory. Most of them will acknowledge an interest cost of, say 7—8 percent, but few will recognize that total carrying costs, which include storage, taxes, obsolescence, and shrink, actually run closer to 30 percent in today’s environment. We would also bet that none of them have such charges against their earnings, even though it is a very legitimate cost of doing business.

Not every company operates this way. Most corporate executives are not tough minded or rigorous enough in challenging cash commitments, and most business unit managers have more cash tied up in their business than required.

Ideally, every manager should think like a small business entrepreneur with his or her own money at risk. If this were the case, we would not see so many companies with bloated balance sheets and marginal returns. Left on their own, most business unit managers do not think this way, however. Life is not easier when you can draw almost at will on coroprate resources to meet the payroll, build inventories, and buy supplies, tooling and a lot of equipment. Under such conditions you don’t have to worry very much about how to make ends meet.

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

Roadblocks to Transformation


The baggage from the past—old habbits, practices, commitments, and ways of thinking—that must be shed is enormous. Unless it is shed, however, the required changes cannot or will not be made. Let’s examine the roadblocks that will inevitably make it difficult for many companies to make the kind of transformation I am talking about:

  1. The first is a reluctance on the part of many managers to face the real facts about their markets and competitive positions.
  2. The second roadblock is a failure to recognize the crucial importance of being a lower cost supplier.
  3. The third is a bureaucratic approach to managing the business in a way that resists change and smothers the entrepreneurial sense of urgency.
  4. The fourth roadblock is an arrogant self-satisfaction with existing product offerings that makes the business vulnerable to being “blindsided” by shifting customer needs, new competitors, and new technologies.
  5. The final roadblock is an apparent lack of urgency and confiodence in the sales groups that have become conditioned to earning a living by simply taking orders.

 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

Same-day Delivery


Same-day delivery, or same-day service, is an excellent promotional scheme for increasing sales at very little additional cost. As the economy becomes increasingly attuned to a “buy it now, have it now” attitude, we become more and more frustrated with waiting days (or often weeks) for purchased products to arrive or for service to be performed. Companies willing to guarantee same-day delivery have found this to be an extraordinarily effective sales tactic that practically ensures a competing edge.

 

Despite the fact that most people regard time as a valuable commodity, few businesses pay any attention to rapid service. Manufacturing, retailers, and service forms want their bills paid on time, but all too often, they do not reciprocate.

 

Although sales tactics that promise and then fulfill same-day delivery within a specific area must always bring in new customers, for some businesses, same-day delivery is impossible.

 

Doing what you say you are going to do when you promise you will do it will inevitably increase service sales as effectively as rapid delivery does in product businesses. It is simply good public relations. Turning it around, when a plumber, electrician, or furnace repairperson promises to take care of your service problems tomorrow and actually does so, the chances are very good that you will call that person again when the service is needed.

 

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

Public Management


There will be absolutely changed conditions under which public managers will operate in the future, some of the areas of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they will be required to possess, and some of the pathways public managers might explore in order to move toward the future.

There will be an extraordinary explosion of new knowledge and technological innovations, especially in the areas of information sciences, genetics, materials, instrumentation, automation, and space. Our public managers will wade into an age of extraordinary technological change and have to accommodate themselves and the institutions to dramatically different bodies of knowledge and technological innovations.

They will not only have to cope with and employ their expanded knowledge and technological capacity, they will have to learn to use this knowledge and technological capacity for the benefit of society. In the technological world of the future, there will be even greater temptations for them to be captured by technology, to fall prey to “technological imperative,” and to allow rational technical interests to supercede human concerns and those of values. Finding ways of employing advanced technologies so as to enhance rather than restrict their capacity for leadership, creativity, and personal responsibility will be a serious challenge.

In the future, knowledge and information will prevail. And if information is power, then those who have information will indeed have power. But who will have information? Information will be increasingly centralized, controlled and marketed through traditional economic and political processes. It will be widely distributed throughout society, so that increasing rather than decreasing numbers of people will have information and in turn have power. Such a possibility will lead to “the twilight of hierarchy,” to be inevitable.

Combining these issues, we can safely predict that the knowledge or information that our public managers will be able to access will be tremendous, to the point that the quantity of information will no longer be the most important issue. Rather the key question will be how to organize this information for human purposes. This means that public administration will have to learn to organize information in a fashion that will facilitate the pursuit of important public purposes. The great challenge will be to organize information so that we can enhance the process of democratic decision-making, of consensus building, and of dialogue and deliberation.

There’s no question that we will have the capacity to organize information for dramatic new public purposes, to restructure our structures of governance in dramatic ways. But what will our choices be? Imagine a computer in Islamabad that could reach out into every home, so that on any occasion that a major policy decision was required, an appropriate message could go out to all the citizens and their answers could guide public policy – a process that would approximate pure democracy.

The globalization of society is obvious today, though in twenty-five years or so, we may experience trans-globalization or beyond, as the frontiers of the oceans and space are extended even further. Already we are thinking more in global terms. However, our managers are still thinking in terms of traditional institutions operating in a new global context. They are not yet asking how they reconfigure businesses and governments so as to carry out a global vision. How do they encourage businesses and governments to assume global responsibilities rather than those defined in terms of one’s own self interest? For example, how can developing countries move toward sustainable development and environmental justice on a global basis?

One obvious casualty of the global age may be the nation-state, replaced not necessarily by a new global or interplanetary federation but possibly by new forms of governance far beyond those we can imagine today.

In future our public administration should know the importance of “responsibilities” rather than “functions” of government. While a large part of the current worldwide debate over privatization or outsourcing speaks to the question of which “functions” belong where, the new debate will necessarily focus on public responsibilities and speak in a language of ethics, citizenship and the public interest.

In reinvented government or the new public management, customers shall replace citizens – or, to put it differently, the integrative role of citizenship has been reduced to the narrow self-interest of customership – in government as in business.

Indeed, we think the job of all public managers will increasingly be more than directing or managing our public organizations. It will be not merely “steering” or “rowing” but “building the boat.” The new public manager will construct networks of varied interests that can work effectively to solve public problems. In doing so, it will be the job of the public administrator to promote pluralism, to create opportunities for constructive dissent, to preserve that which is distinctive about individuals and groups, and to provide an opportunity for diverse groups to share in establishing future directions for the community. The administrator will play a substantial role in diminishing polarization, teaching diversity and respect, building coalitions, resolving disputes, negotiating and mediating. The work of the top public managers will thus be – to build community.

There are two broad areas that public managers will need to explore in order to fashion a response to the trends. These emerging trends will turn public management both “inside-out” and “upside-down.” Public management will be turned “inside-out” as the largely internal focus of management in the past is replaced by an external focus, specifically a focus on citizens and citizenship. Public management will be turned “upside-down” as the traditional top-down orientation of the field is replaced – not necessarily by a bottom-up approach, but by a system of shared leadership.

In the past public administration has been largely focused on what happens within the public bureaucracy. The future will require that it dramatically refocus its attention on the world outside, particularly the world of citizens and citizenship.

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