30 Apr 2009
in Is this Meeting Genuinely Necessary?
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A “maybe” response indicates only limited need for the meeting and shows that further thought is required. Only a “yes” is a positive justification for calling a meeting.
The same question needs to be asked before attending a meeting. If the meeting is not necessary and you can avoid it, do so. If you have to attend, try to use the time to shorten your workload to compensate for the lost hours.
Many managers find it hard to judge if a meeting is needed or superfluous. There are some guidelines:
1. Is the meeting being called to exchange information or viewpoints?
a. If the meeting is to discuss viewpoints, it is probably a necessary conference. If the meeting is strictly to distribute information, the meeting is probably unnecessary. Meetings are most effective when used to find solutions or resolutions to conflicts. A meeting held for the sole purpose of imparting information had better have some pretty spectacular revelations. This in all likelihood should be classed as an inspirational conference, because important news is seldom passed along without editorializing or explanations. Inspirational meetings are difficult to conduct, because they are based on emotion, but there are times when the troops need boosting or, conversely, deflating.
b. Training meetings appear to be an exception to the don’t-meet-to-exchange-information concept. They are not. Distributing information in advance allows the meeting to be used for developing concepts and testing individual understanding. This is a better use of everyone’s time. This is not to downplay the importance of instructional sessions. It is just to set this category of communications apart from other meetings.
c. Information, facts, figures, sales data, market intelligence, production numbers, personnel reviews, and more, can be disseminated more effectively by memo than meeting. Chances are, the memo is going to be written anyway passed out at the meeting. Distributing a memo is okay if there is other business on hand, but calling a meeting solely as a means of handing paper to other managers is inappropriate.
d. Meetings are at their best when used to generate expressions of viewpoints or concepts, or to develop a policy.
e. Meetings are at their worst when used to check individual progress on various projects. There are few more mind-dulling experiences than to sit at a conference table and hear about the status of tasks that are not even remotely connected with yours. These sections often turn into excuse contests with rambling dissertations on the reasons behind delays or problems.
f. Meetings are generally not an efficient way to dispense information. If this is the primary reason for the gathering, then rethink the need for convening.
2. Can one-on-one conversations or even one-on-two conversations accomplish what needs to be done? Or is a larger group necessary?
a. There’s a difference between a meeting and a conversation between two or three people. A conversation is relaxed, informal, and rarely has the time constraints posed by a meeting. Those present sense the difference.
b. Decisions are rarely made in conversations. In fact, some managers and executives become agitated when two or three members of a committee converse and come to a consensus without the others present. This nervousness is not assuaged by a follow-up memo which details the conversation or even by the fact that the decision may be nothing more than a unified front, in no way binding upon the group.
c. If conversation will suffice to avoid another meeting, then have the talk. Inform the other committee members or interested parties. Those smart enough to advance in management will welcome one less meeting on their schedule.
3. Is this meeting being called because someone or some group doesn’t have enough to do? It happens all the time. Workloads in an organization can be unbalanced. This week, Production has more than it can handle, while Sales is costing. One way to fill the day for Sales is to call a meeting. This is more common than anyone dares admit.
4. Is the agenda for the called-meeting vague? Or worse, is there no agenda at all?
a. As a basic rule of meeting skill, do not go to a meeting where there is no agenda. If you have to attend, go prepared for the worst.
b. If a manager cannot express on paper what the meeting is about, there probably shouldn’t be a meeting at all.
c. If you are asked to a meeting and no agenda is given to you in advance, find the person who called the meeting and ask for one. If it is verbal, take notes.
d. Many times, the person discovers he or she has vague ideas about why the meeting is needed. This experience can benefit both of you.
5. Is there any reason to meet other than the fact that your group has a set, regular, once-a-week mandatory meeting? Top management often wants certain employees to get together each and every week, to discuss items of importance, or to match timing, balance workloads, and do ongoing, necessary house-keeping.
a. After a few sessions, these meetings fall into a routine and small talk dominates.
b. The day before, the manager should do a little checking. Is there actually a need to convene? Could a more limited gathering accomplish the same thing? Would a memo suffice? Could matters be handled by a phone call? If the answer is yes, skip the meeting.
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
06 Feb 2009
in Avoiding Pitfalls in Case Analysis
Tags: adequate, alternative, analyst, assumption, central, challenge, change, clear-cut, complain, conclusion, consultant, correct, course of action, criticism, decision, diagnose, discussion, element, enough, error, exploration, focused, generalities, history, ignore, information, instructor, intelligent, intermediary, issues, justification, justify, life, limited, marketing manager, narrow, official, optimal, orally, premature, Pricing, problem, Product, real, realism, reasonable, reasoning, recommend, rehash, Research, root, search, Shortcoming, situation, solution, solve, Symptoms, understand, unrealistic, unsatisfactory, variable, vision, written
Herebelow is the guide for evaluating analysis of cases:
1) Inadequate definition of the problem. By far the most common error made in case analysis is attempting to recommend courses of action without first adequately defining or understanding the core problems. Whether presented orally or in a written report, a case analysis must begin with a focus on the central issues and problems represented in the case situation. Closely related is the error of analyzing symptoms without determining the root problem.
2) To search for the “answer.” In case analysis, there are usually no clear-cut solutions. Keep in mind that the objective of case studies is learning through discussion and exploration. There is usually no one “official” or “correct” answer to a case. Rather, there are usually several reasonable alternative solutions.
3) Not enough information. Analysts often complain there is not enough information in some cases to make a good decision. However, there is justification for not presenting all of the information in a case. As in real life, a marketing manager or consultant seldom has all the information necessary to make an optimal decision. This, reasonable assumptions have to be made, and the challenge is to find intelligent solutions in spite of the limited information.
4) Use of generalities. In analyzing cases, specific recommendations are necessarily not generalities.
5) A different situation. Considerable time and effort are sometimes exerted by analysts considering that “If the situation were different, I’d know what course of action to take” or “If the marketing manager hadn’t already found things up so badly, the firm wouldn’t have a problem.” Such reasoning ignores the fact that the events in the case have already happened and cannot be changed. Even though analysis or criticism of past events is necessary in diagnosing the problem, in the end, the present situation must be addressed and decisions must be made based on the given situations.
6) Narrow vision analysis. Although cases are often labeled as a specific type of case, such as “pricing,” “product,” and so forth, this does not mean that other marketing variables should be ignored. Too often analysts ignore the effects that a change in one marketing element will have on the others.
7) Realism. Too often analysts become so focused on solving a particular problem that their solutions become totally unrealistic.
8) The marketing research solution. A quite common but unsatisfactory solution to case problem is marketing research. The firm should do this or that type of marketing research to find a solution to its problem. Although marketing research may be helpful as an intermediary step in some cases, marketing research does not solve problems or make decisions. In cases where marketing research does not solve problems or make decisions. In cases where marketing research is recommended, the cost and potential benefits should be fully specified in the case analysis.
9) Rehashing the case material. Analysts sometimes spend considerable effort rewriting a two- or three-page history of the firm. This is unnecessary since the instructor and other analysis are already familiar with this information.
10) Premature conclusions. Analysts sometimes jump to premature conclusions instead of waiting until their analysis is completed. Too many analysts jump to conclusions upon first reading the case and then proceed to interpret everything in the case as justifying their conclusions, even factors logically against it.
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