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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Meaning Transfer


The culture and social systems in which marketing communications takes place are loaded with meaning. Through socialization, people learn cultural values, beliefs, and become familiar with the artifacts that are associated with these values and beliefs. The artifacts of culture are charged with meaning, and this meaning is transferred from generation to generation.

Marketing communicators attempt to draw meaning from the culturally constituted world and transfer that meaning to consumer goods. Advertising is an especially important instrument of meaning transfer. The role of advertising in transferring meaning has been described in this fashion.

When exposed to advertising, the consumer is not merely drawing information from the ad but is actively involved in assigning meaning to the advertised product.

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.

 

Fuse Knowledge to Power


Architects are concerned with flows. When designing a building, their paramount considerations are how occupants will move in it and how light and air will circulate around it. Equally important for organizational architects is how information, know-how, decisions, and careers will flow in the structure being shaped.

When the work of the corporation was primarily the organizing of manual labor, markets were local and slow to change, and the knowledge base upon which competitive success depended was stable, a unitary hierarchy of manager atop manager made a lot of sense. The information needed to run the business was limited and could be easily channeled in one upward or downward flow. Workers did the work, and managers did the thinking.

But this is a reality that has disappeared from most industries. Markets are dimensioned globally, rules change faster than some competitors can master them, and brainpower counts for much more than brawn. Most organizations, though, remain keyed to the old realities. Few hierarchies have even kept up with the need to build in change by linking each of their limited number of levels with the time horizons of greatest importance to the company.

A more serious problem, though, is the lack of rethinking about how a business needs to organize its intellectual capital, its knowledge workers. It is ironic, and wasteful, that while “knowledge workers” (technical professionals and other holders of graduate or postgraduate degrees) are making up an increasing proportion of the work force in many industries, the organization structures in which they work remain more the products of Industrial Revolution than of the information age.

Knowledge, especially which can affect the company’s future competitiveness, used to be confined to the research and development lab or to the strategic planning department. Now, as information systems-driven service industries assume a larger share of many economies, knowledge about the capabilities that provide competitive advantage is much more widely dispersed than was ever necessary in traditional manufacturing companies. No single information channel can contain it all. And even traditional product makers are changing. Fewer manufacturing jobs are directly involved in making something; more are concerned with planning what to make, how to make it, and how to keep customers happy after the product has been purchased. The intellectual demands on front-line workers have increased tremendously. The narrowly skilled assembly jobs have been replaced by the more knowledge-intensive positions of the factory automation technician.

Requirements for more intellectual value added have escalated up many organization hierarchies. Networked data bases, expert systems, and almost never-ending flow of new personal computer software have significantly expanded the scope and the nature of the contribution possible from many mid-level employees. This is not an unmitigated blessing, though. It has also seriously polluted the management role in many companies, making many into high-level doers instead of managers, increasing the role’s fragmentation, and making it brittle rather than strong and load-bearing.

This situation will only worsen as economic pressures lead to increased management delayering. Companies with eight to ten tiers of management will find it necessary to organize around four or five. The number of subordinates per manager will have to sharply increase. Middle managers will find themselves with less and less time to master these new white-collar productivity enhancers and to make the intellectual contribution their businesses increasingly need.

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

Re-inventing the Corporation: Bureaucracy Smashers


Sometimes, just a few key steps can start breaking down the barriers to effective communication and action within a company.

The following policies are a list of bureaucracy smashers, simple but effective steps which help replace the industrial “us vs. them” mentality with the “we are all in this together” attitude needed to re-invent the corporation.

  1. Set up a system of reverse reviews. Everyone who is evaluated gets to evaluate the boss, too (assuming there are bosses).
  2. Call everyone by first name.
  3. Try out the rule: Use little paper; keep no files.
  4. Call people associates, partners, managers—or just plain people—instead of employees (or workers).
  5. Decentralize authority absolutely.
  6. Eliminate executive dinning rooms, executive restrooms, special parking spots, and the like.
  7. Insist everybody answer his or her own phone. Preferably type your own letters.
  8. Get people to manage themselves: to set and monitor their own goals, to manage their work load and set their own priorities.
  9. Take a deep breath and throw out the old organization chart.

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

Enthusiasm in Action


Make no mistake: The more closely a person can identify with the end result of his work, the more enthusiastic and productive the individual will be.

 A person who owns a large furniture factory takes enormous pride in his people. And they are mighty proud of him, too. He is a master in helping his personnel identify with what his company does. It is a powerful enthusiasm builder.

 “Take my truck drivers,” he explained. “They work very hard, never complain, and take more than their share of risks. Our drivers identify with their work. When they deliver a load – maybe two thousand miles away – they sign all documents, ‘delivered with pride by ________________.’ Signing their names makes them think, ‘I did it. I delivered this load with my skill, cauition, and hard work.’ When they phone the office to let us know they’ve made it, they always begin with, ‘This is ______________. Mission accomplished!’

 But employee identification doesn’t stop there, a team of three to five employees finish off and inspect each piece of furniture. And their names appear on a neat label. This gives them pride and it sure helps sell the furniture when customers know human beings – not machines – put it together.

 Even secretaries in his plant are identified with the letters, reports, price quotations (everything that is typed) not by initial (no one knows people’s initials) but by name.

 Identification with work done is focusing on the big, the important, and it is enthusiasm in action.

 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

A Healthy Company


A healthy company is like a fine athlete is more than someone who isn’t sick, a healthy company embodies people and practices that combine and coordinate to produce an exceptional performance.

 

Healthy companies all possess and emanate a certain vitality and spirit. This spirit is not a religious fervor or a mindless cheerleader enthusiasm but a deep feeling of shared humanistic values at the core of the company. These values are the glue that binds healthy, successful employees with healthy, productive workplaces. They influence the way people act and think at all levels of the company and form the foundation for corporate policies and practices. They define roles and responsibilities and dictate hor business decisions are made. These principles are expressed and applied at every turn of the business, from receptionists and loading dock workers, through managers and executives, and into the board of directors.

 

These values are perpetually interacting, expanding, and contracting like a living entity. Each value depends on and determines the health of the others; sickness or disease that undermines on weakens all; roboustness in one value strengthens all. The values at the heart of a healthy company enable it to continuously grow, evolve, and renew itself, reinforcing what is productive and prositive and sloughing off the unhealthy and unworkable. In short, the causes and effects between values, people, and companies are not linear but circular. Values are the center of the enterprise; they circulate through every cell and artery of a company, and a company and its employees either reinforce healthy values or bring about their decline.

 

Healthy company values bind people to their organizations. By creating a common language and appealing to principles of dignity, commitment, and growth, these values help to create an identity that connects thousands of people around a shared mission. Suddenly, the traditional hard values of business success and the nontraditional soft values of human development merge into one dream.

 

This convergence generates a synergy, producing something greater than the sum of their parts—a vital business that lives and breathes a humanistic philosophy, that treats people as more than profit producers, views relationships as more than simply financial contracts, and regards the workplace as more than a setting for business. It is a holistic environment, one that nurtures, stretches, and empowers peple. The result is an organization that optimizes people, principles, and profits.

 

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