The Manager


The manager describes what a person does rather than what a person knows. A manager makes sure an organization operates smoothly and efficiently. Upper-level managers, known as executives, address longer-range concerns. They foresee problems years ahead by considering questions such as the following:

  1. Is current technology at the company becoming obsolete?
  2. How expensive are the newest technologies?
  3. How much would they disrupt operations if they were adopted?
  4. What other plans would have to be postponed or dropped altogether?
  5. When would the new technologies start to pay for themselves?
  6. What has been the experience of other companies that have adopted these new technologies?

Executives are concerned with these and dozens of other broad questions that go beyond day-to-day managerial concerns.

Managers want to know the bottom line. They have to get a job done on schedule they don’t have time to consider theory in the way an expert does. Rather, managers must judge constraints—financial, personnel, time, and informational—and make logical and reasonable decisions quickly. And they have to communicate with their own supervisors.

In writing to a manager, try to determine his or her technical background and then choose an appropriate vocabulary and sentence length. Focus on practical information. If you think that your reader will take your information and use it in a document addressed to executives, make your reader’s job easier. Include an executive summary and use frequent headings to highlight your major points. Ask your reader if there is an organizational pattern or format, or a strategy for writing the document that will help him or her use your document as source material.

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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The Master Plan


Many people assume that a formal business plan is only for big time businesses. Wrong. A business plan is for anyone who wants to give their enterprise their best possible shot. It is where you detail out all the operational, marketing, and money matters of your business. It is, in essence, a road map. With it, you will better be able to reach your goal. Without it, you run the risk of spending precious time and money traveling in circles or unwittingly wandering into danger zones.

In response to the question, what a business plan is, follow the following”

  • A business plan is written by the home-based business owner with outside help as needed.
  • It is accurate and concise as a result of careful study.
  • It explains how the business will function in the marketplace.
  • It clearly depicts its operational characteristics.
  • It details how it will be financed.
  • It outlines how it will be managed.
  • It is the management and financial “blueprint” for startup and profitable operation.
  • It serves as a prospectus for potential investors and lenders.

A study for “why” of creating it, note:

  • The process of putting the business plan together, including the thought that you put in before writing it, forces you to take the objective, critical, unemotional look at your entire business proposal.
  • The finished written plan is an operational tool, which, when properly used, will help you manage your business and work toward its success.
  • The complete business plan is a means for communicating your ideas to others and provides the basis for financing your business.

While you are to be the author of the document, you shouldn’t hesitate to get professional help when it comes to areas outside your ken, such as accounting, insurance, capital requirements, operational forecasting, and tax and legal requirements. Finally, in response to the question, “When should Business Plan be used?” note:

  • To make crucial startup decisions
  • To reassure lenders and backers
  • To measure operational progress
  • To test planning assumptions
  • As a basis for adjusting forecasts
  • To anticipate ongoing capital and cash requirements
  • As the benchmark for good operational management

If you have been doing your research and homework all along, you probably have most of the raw material for the business plan, so it won’t be such an awesome task.

Business plans differ greatly, depending on the nature and scope of the enterprise. Some elements a person in a retail sales business would need in his or her business plan may be totally irrelevant for your service business. Similarly, business plans vary in length—from five or six pages or a virtual booklet; some are written in an engaging narrative style while others take another approach—just the facts. However, while business plans may differ in style, tone, length, and components, there is some common ground. Below is a list of items that should be in almost every business plan:

  • A summary of the nature of your business and its principal activity with a detailed description of the product(s) or service(s) you will offer.
  • A statement as to the form your business will take (sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporation) and how it will be managed and operated (with information on employees or subcontractors if applicable).
  • A discussion of any extra-ordinary (and potentially problematic) matters revolving around such things as space requirements, production processes, and operating procedures.
  • A discussion of major trends in your trade or profession.
  • A discussion of your competition and the basis on which you will compete.
  • A description of your target market that might include a profile of a typical customer or client.
  • A discussion of your plans for pricing, sales terms, and distribution.
  • A discussion of how you intend to advertise and promote your products or services.
  • A detailed statement of startup and operating costs for at least the first year.
  • A discussion of how your business will be financed.
  • Profit and loss and cash flow statements for at least the first year of business.

If this list has made a business plan seem all the more scary and arduous a task, don’t panic. There are books on the market that will guide you through the process.

A clean attractive business plan is a sine qua non if you will be applying for a loan or looking for investors. But even if the document is for your eyes only, you owe it to yourself to produce a professional-looking document. Since it is your road map, the neater it is the better it will serve you when you refer to it at various stages of your entrepreneurial journey.

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 Product Life Cycle


Customer demands are constantly changing. There are many reasons for this, ranging from fashions to new regulations. Sometimes there are obvious patterns to demand. Another pattern comes from the product’s life cycle. Demand for just about every product follows a life cycle with five stages:

  1. Introduction. A new product appears and demand is low while people learn about it, try it and see if they like it—for example, palmtop computers and automated checkouts at supermarkets.
  2. Growth. New customers buy the product and demand rises quickly—for example, telephone banking and mobile phones.
  3. Maturity. Demand stabilizes when most people know about the product and are buying it in steady numbers—for example, color television sets and insurance.
  4. Decline. Sales fall as customers start buying new, alternative products—for example, tobacco and milk deliveries.
  5. Withdrawal. Demand declines to the point where it is no longer worth making the product—for example, black and white television sets and telegrams.

The length of the life cycle varies quite widely. Each edition of The Guardian completes its life cycle in a few hours; clothing fashions last months or even weeks; the life cycle of washing machines is several years; some basic commodities like Nescafe has stayed in the mature stage for decades.

Unfortunately, there are no reliable guidelines for the length of a cycle. Some products have an unexpectedly short life and disappear very quickly. Some products, like full cream milk stayed at the mature stage for years and then started to decline. Even similar products can have different life cycles – with Ford replacing small car models after 12 years and Honda replacing them after seven years. Some products appear to decline and then grow again—such as passenger train services which grew by 7 per cent in 1998 and cinemas where attendances fell from 1.64 billion in 1964 to 54 million in 1984, and then rose to 140 million in 1997.

One thing we can say is that product life cycles are generally getting shorter. Alvin Toffler says, ‘Fast-shifting preferences, flowing out of and interacting with high-speed technological change, not only lead to frequent changes in the popularity of products and brands, but also shorten the life-cycle of products.’

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.

Executive Summary


The executive summary, sometimes called the epitome, executive overview, management summary, or management overview,  is a brief consideration of the document addressed to managers, who rely on it to cope with the  tremendous amount of paperwork they must read everyday. Generally, managers need only a broad understanding of the projects the organization undertakes and how they fit together into a coherent whole.

An executive summary for a document under 20 pages is typically one page (double spaced). For a longer document the maximum length is often calculated as a percentage of the document, such as 5 percent.

The executive summary presents information to managers in two parts:

  1. Background: this section explains the background of the project: the specific problem or opportunity—what was not working effectively or efficiently, or what potential modification of a procedure or product had to be analyzed.
  2. Major findings and implications: the methods are covered in only one or two sentences. The conclusions and recommendations, however, receive a full paragraph.

An executive summary differs from an informative abstract. An abstract focuses on the technical subject (such as whether the new radio based system effectively monitors the energy usage); an executive summary concentrates on whether the system can improve operations at a particular company.

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.

Speaking the Body Language


About 60 to 70 percent of what we communicate has nothing to do with words. More important than speaking the language is what you communicate without words. Many travelers trust that if they don’t speak the language, there are a hundred gestures to get across almost any meaning. But gestures have quite different meanings in different parts of the world; body language is not universal. Subtleties are noticed, like the length of time you hold on while shaking hands. On a very unconscious level we can turn people off even when we are on good behavior. Thumbs up is considered vulgar in Iran and Ghana, equivalent to raising the middle finger in the United States. Touching a person’s head, including children’s, should be avoided in Singapore or Thailand. In Yugoslavia, people shake their heads for yes—appearing to us to be saying no.

In general, avoid gesturing with the hand. Many people take offense at being beckoned this way, or pointed out, even if only conversationally. In parts of Asia, gestures and even slight movements can make people nervous. If you jab your finger in the air or on a table to make a point, you might find that your movements have been so distracting that you have not made your point at all. Unintentionally, Americans come across as aggressive and pushy. Yet, in other parts of the world, particularly in Latin America or Italy, gesturing is important for self-expression, and the person who does not move a lot while talking comes across as bland or uninteresting. As always, watch what local people do. Or ask.

Body language is more than gestures. You communicate by the way you stand, sit, tense facial muscles, tap fingers, and so on. Unfortunately, these subtler body messages are hard to read across cultures; mannerisms don’t translate. In many parts of the world, looking someone in the eye is disrespectful.

In Japan a person who looks a subordinate in the eye is felt to be judgmental and punitive, while someone who looks his superior in the eye is assumed to be hostile or slightly insane. The Arabs like eye contact—the eyes are windows to soul—but theirs seem to dart about much more than Americans. We don’t trust “shifty-eyed” people.

Subtle differences in eye contact between the British and North Americans can be confusing. English listening behavior includes immobilization of the eyes at a social focal distance, so that either eye gives the appearance of looking straight at the speaker. On the other hand, an American listener will stare at the speaker’s eye, first one, then the other, relieved by frequent glances over the speaker’s shoulder.

Eye contact during speaking differs too. Americans keep your attention by boring into you with eyes and words, while the British keep your attention by looking away while they talk. When their eyes return to yours, it signals they have finished speaking and it is your turn to talk. These almost imperceptible differences in eye contact interfere with rapport building and trust.

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.

Planning for Uncertainty


Uncertainty has become so great as to render futile, if not counterproductive, the kind of planning most companies still practice: forecasting based on probabilities.

Unique events have no probability. Yet executives have to make decisions that commit to the future current resources of time and money. Worse, they have to make decisions not to commit resources—to forgo the future. The lengths of such commitments are steadily growing: in strategy and technology, marketing, manufacturing, employee development, in the time it takes to bring a new plant on steam or in the years until a commitment to a store location pays for itself. Every such commitment is based on assumptions about the future. To arrive at them, traditional planning asks, “what is most likely to happen?” Planning for uncertainty asks instead, “What has already happened that will create the future?”

The first place to look is in demographics. There have been two revolutionary changes in the workforce of developed countries: the explosion of advanced education and the rush of women into careers outside the home. Both are accomplished facts. The shift from blue-collar labor to knowledge and service workers as the centers of population gravity is irrevocable. But so is the aging of both the workforce and population.

Business people need to ask: “What do these accomplished facts mean for our business? What opportunities do they create? What threats? What changes do they demand in the ways the business is organized and run, in our goals, in our products, in our services, in our policies? And what changes do they make possible and likely to be advantageous?”

The next question is: “What changes in industry and market structure, in basic values (e.g., the emphasis on the environment), and in science and technology have already occurred but have yet to have full impact?” It is commonly believed that innovations create changes—but very few do. Successful innovations exploit changes that have already happened. They exploit the time lag—in science, often twenty-five or thirty years—between the change itself and its perception and acceptance. During that time the exploiter of the change rarely faces much, if any, competition. The other people in the industry still operate on the basis of yesterday’s reality. And once such a change has happened, it usually survives even extreme turbulence.

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

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

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