Productivity—the Japanese Way


Economists are forever telling us that we need to increase productivity in order to improve our standard of living. Productivity is one of those concepts that are so loaded with meaning and implications that is very difficult to define, much less explain. Not surprisingly then, improving “it” is one of the most difficult tasks facing business. More to the point, the time for improvement is quickly running out. Industrial performance is being outstripped at a frightening pace by the Japanese. In fact, it has reached the point where their productivity performance is so superior that they can literally pick any product and any market and quickly come to dominate it.

The idea that Japanese are uniquely gifted in only a few related areas has been debunked by their proven successes in industries as diverse as automobiles and semi-conductors. As well, the facile suggestion that the Japanese are somehow culturally inclined to be productive doesn’t wash. Japanese managers have taken over factories in Europe and the US and greatly improved productivity records. Productivity has also been high in their North American plants.

If corporate managers believe that their workers can be as competitive as anyone else in the world, and technically, there’s no valid reason why they can’t be, then they must find better ways to help their employees realize their potential. In that sense, study of Japanese methods is a jumping-off point that can lead to adaptations that will produce unique ways of improving productivity.

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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Product Development Process


The product development process involves analysis of the marketplace, the buyer, the company’s capabilities, and the economic potential of new product ideas. This process may be both expensive and time consuming. To accelerate the process, many companies create multidisciplinary teams so that manufacturing and marketing plans can be developed in tandem while the product is being designed.

  1. Generation and Screening of Ideas: The first step is to come up with ideas that will satisfy unmet needs. A producer may get new product ideas from its own employees or from external consultants, it may simply adapt a competitor’s idea, or it may buy the rights to someone else’s invention. Customers are often the best source of new product ideas.
  2. Business Analysis: A product idea that survives the screening stage is subjected to a business analysis. At this point the question is: Can the company make enough money on the product to justify the investment? To answer this question, companies forecast the probable sales of the product, assuming various pricing strategies. In addition, they estimate the costs associated with various levels of production. Given these projections, the company calculates the potential cash flow and return on investment that will be achieved if the product is introduced.
  3. Prototype Development: The next step is generally to create and test a few samples, or prototypes, of the product, including its packaging. During this stage, the various elements of the marketing mix are put together. In addition, the company evaluates the feasibility of large-scale production and specifies the resources required to bring the product to market.
  4. Product Testing: During the product testing stage, a small group of consumers actually use the product, often in comparison tests with existing products. If the results are good, the next step is test marketing, introducing the product in selected areas of the country and monitoring consumer reactions. Test marketing makes the most sense in cases where the cost of marketing a product far exceeds the cost of developing it.
  5. Commercialization: The final stage of development is commercialization, the large-scale production and distribution of those products that have survived the testing process. This phase requires the coordination of many activities—manufacturing, packaging, distribution, pricing and promotion. A classic mistake is letting marketing get out of phase with production so that the consumer is primed to buy the product before the company can supply it in adequate quantity. A mistake of this sort can be costly, because competitors may be able to jump in quickly. Many companies roll out their new products generally, going from one geographic area to the next. This enables them to spread the costs of launching the product over a longer period and to refine their strategy as the rollout proceeds.

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.

Choosing the Network Partners


Although many business schools and consultancies have a public commitment to learning from, and sharing, best practice, this has not stopped some of them, and those who use their services, from jumping of  techniques such as reengineering as if they represent a revelation.

Mindless copying can result in the spread of panaceas, hype and misunderstanding, and gives added momentum to the latest craze. While it may be good news, for those who ride bandwagon, it is not so hot for those whose toes get in the way.

When external suppliers, such as consultants, do get hold of a best practice ‘gem,’ their motivation is often to spread it around their client base as soon as possible. Thus the corporation’s competitive edge can quickly become industry commonplace.

Some consultants receive as good as they give. Companies invite various experts to pitch for business and then ‘do it themselves’ using ther best of the various ideas they have picked up. The learning organization is a voracious and insatiable plunderer and consumer of intellectual capital. The wary choose their network partners with care.

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

Grabbing the Ball


What are some of the methods of interrupting? One is to raise your hand and say, “Just a second, may I . . .” and continue speaking. Another way to interrupt is to stand. The person speaking will usually pause, and calling that person by name, you can say, “Mr. so and so, there’s something else,” and continue speaking. You can also just speak, raising the level of your voice above the person speaking. Be sure, however, that when you ask permission to interrupt you don’t wait for permission to be granted but continue directly to your message.

One of the most difficult things to do in a brisk meeting is to hold back and allow others to finish presenting what you consider to be incorrect assumptions and actions when you know you have the right and perfect answer to the problem. Have the urge to jump in and interrupt a thousand times and do so in many cases.

Interruptions can lead to digressions, which prolong the length of a meeting. But a polite interruption that cuts off a digression is an excellent way to save time.

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