“Is” and “Is Not”


Once we have identified “could be”  but “is not” data, we will also be able to identify the peculiar factors that isolate our problem: exactly what it is, where it is observed, when it is observed, and its extent or magnitude. These peculiar factors will lead us closer to the problem’s cause.

Suppose for a moment that you have two identical potted plants growing in your office. One thrives but the other does not. If you take the wilting plant out of the office and ask someone about the probable cause for its sorry appearance, you will get any number of educated guesses. But if the same person observes that two identical plants in your office have not been receiving identical treatment (the thriving plant is on a sunny window sill and the wilting one is in a dim corner), the speculations as to cause will be immediate and more accurate than they could have been without a basis of comparison. Regardless of the content of a problem, nothing is more conducive to sound analysis than some relevant basis of comparison.

The decision as to what is close and what is logical must rest with the judgment of the problem solver. In many cases it is extremely important to identify the malfunction that “could be” but “is not” in order to narrow the scope of the search for cause. Each problem analysis is unique to the content of each problem.

Once we have identified bases of comparison in all four dimensions, we are able to isolate key distinguishing features of the problem. It is as if we had been describing the outlines of a shadow. With the completion of the “is not” data in our specification, the outlines begin to suggest the components capable of having cast the shadow.

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.

Product Development Strategy


A product development strategy dictates that the organization create new offerings for existing markets. The approach taken maybe to develop totally new offerings (product innovation) to enhance the value to customers of existing offerings (product augmentation) or to broaden the existing line of offerings by adding different sizes, forms, flavors,  and so forth (product line extension).

Companies successful at developing and commercializing new offerings lead their industries in sales growth and profitability. The likelihood of success is increased if  the development effort results in offerings that satisfy a clearly understood buyer need.

Important considerations in planning a product deployment strategy concern the market size and volume necessary for the effort to be profitable, the magnitude and timing of competitive response, the impact of the new product on existing offerings, and the capacity (in terms of human and financial investment and technology) of the organization to deliver the offerings to the market(s). more importantly, successful new offerings must have a significant point of difference reflected in superior product or service characteristics that deliver unique and wanted benefits to consumers.

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.

A Plan of Action


You should be prepared to identify possible courses of action on the basis of the situation analysis. More often than not, several alternatives are possible, and each should be carefully articulated. Each course of action typically has associated costs and revenues. These should be carefully calculated on the basis of realistic estimates of the magnitude of effort expected in their pursuit.

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.

 

Cardinal versus Ordinal


What do we mean when we say that a variable is “quantitatively measurable”?We do not necessarily mean that there is only a single way of measuring or scaling it. Temperature is certainly quantitatively measurable, but there are alternative ways of doing so. For example, 320 Fahrenheit is 00 Celsius, and each degree up or down of Celsius corresponds to 1.8 degrees up or down of Fahrenheit. The two scales differ, but only in zero point and unit interval. Similarly, altitude could be measured from sea level or from the center of the earth (shift of zero point) and in feet or meters (shift of unit interval). Both temperature and altitude are more technically called cardinal magnitudes, variables which have the following property: that, regardless of shift of zero-point and unit interval, the relative magnitudes of differences remain the same. In case of altitude, for example, there’s a bigger difference between the heights of the base and crest of Mount Everest than between the ground floor and roof of even the tallest building. This remains true whether we scale altitude in feet or meters or whether we measure it from sea level or from the center of the earth. If people can state that they prefer two million to one million—but not by how much—their utility is said to be an “ordinal” magnitude. Put another way, if Total Utility is an ordinal magnitude we cannot say anything about the  size of Marginal Utility but we can still say whether Marginal Utility is positive or negative.

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.

 

Problem-solving at the Upper Management Level


Full step-by-step application of the process, documented on chartpad or notepad, is required most often for concrete problems whose identity can be directly observed or easily visualized. These largely are mechanical, tangible situations.

At the upper management level, however, application of the process often consists of use of the ideas of the process. This includes discussion of a situation in al l its dimensions rather than formulation of hypotheses based on experience; attention to distinctions of identity, location, timing and magnitude rather than informed speculation alone; and testing of possible causes against the facts surrounding a situation rather than immediate action directed at the cause suggested by informed speculation. Data may be recorded and notes taken, but use of the process at upper levels of management is usually observable in the character of the questioning and the nature of the investigation. We observe people using the common language of Problem Analysis to organize their information, communicate it, and put it in perspective. They are sharing information through the channels of a systematic process. They are using words that will clarify each individual’s contributions.

Busy managers are not avoiding responsibility when they tell subordinates, “I want you to solve your own problems.” They have neither the time nor the specific skills to personally guide their subordinates’ problem-solving efforts. The truth of the matter is that managers who become directly involved in problem solving are subject to criticism for failing to set priorities on their own time or to delegate appropriately—in short, for failing to manage their operations. Managers need not have all the right answers. What is required of them are the ability and willingness to ask the right questions. The kind of questioning we use in specifying, in identifying distinctions and change, and in testing possible causes lends itself well to the process of assessing the logic and the work that other people have contributed to resolving a problem.

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.

Inflation and Disinflation


Fiscal policy is related to inflation, which occurs when the prices of goods and services rise steadily throughout the economy. Although many factors (such as increases in the prices of imported goods) contribute to inflation, government borrowing is major factor. When the government borrows great sums of money to bolster the economy, the total amount of money circulating tends to increase. With more money chasing the same quantity of goods and services, inflation increases too.

Theoretically, the government is supposed to pay back its debt during inflationary times, thereby taking some of the excess money out of the economy and slowing inflation to moderate level. This system worked throughout 1950s and 1960s, but during the 1970s, inflation kept building. By the end of the decade, prices were increasing by almost 14 percent a year.

Inflation of this magnitude brings an unproductive mind-set. People become motivated to buy “before the prices goes up,” even if they have to borrow money to do it. With greater competition for available money, interest rates increase to a level that makes business borrowing riskier and business expansion slower. Businesses and individuals alike begin spending on short-term items instead of investing in things like new factories and children’s education, which are more valuable to the nation’s economy in the long run.

Because of the peculiar psychology that accompanies high inflation, slowing it has always been difficult. In addition, the causes of inflation are complex, and the remedies can be painful. Nevertheless, several factors conspired to bring about a period of disinflation, a moderation in the inflation rate, during the 1980s.

Whether inflation will remain under control is debatable. The country is still vulnerable to outside shock. Bad weather could jack up food prices, and political upheavals could limit the supply and boost the price of vital raw materials. Also, government efforts to stimulate the economy could rekindle inflation. When the economy slumps, the government is inclined to increase the money supply, which tends to drive prices up.

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.

Creative Destruction


Technological discontinuities, regulation and deregulation, globalization, changing customer expectations, and macroeconomic, social, or demographic changes are sources of innovation. Biotechnology, the web, fiber optics, digital movies, cable modems, massively parallel processors, and electric cars are all technological discontinuities of some sort as they offer an order of magnitude performance advantage over previous technologies. They also result in some sort of capabilities obsolescence. Such changes where an old order is destroyed by technological innovation is creative destruction.

Customers demand and expect certain levels of quality and price versus performance in the product that they buy. For various reasons, firms are no longer limiting their activities to their country of origin. Social or demographic changes, such as the changes from planned economies to capitalist ones, are also discontinuities. These are all sources of new ideas to profit from.

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.

Logistics: Currency Rate of Exchange


Variations in the rate of exchange of the dollar against foreign currencies represent a difference of major importance in international logistics just as they do in any other facet of international operations. The design and operation of an international logistic system is based on a set of units of measure. Thus, as rates of exchange vary, so do the local costs associated with different local currencies; these include transportation, warehousing, inventorying, information processing, and other costs elements.

When variations in rates of exchange become substantial in magnitude, and significantly different between countries, it is usually necessary to re-evaluate the structure of the logistic system, to ensure that it is adjusted to keep it close to its optimal performance. By the same token, management reports must provide explicit identification of variations in costs due to variations in currency rates of exchange, as opposed to variations in performance.

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

Purchasing: Risk Reduction Strategies


Individuals are motivated by a strong desire to reduce the level of risk in purchase decisions. The perceived risk concept includes two components: 1) uncertainty about the outcome of a decision, and 2) the magnitude of consequences associated with making the wrong choice. Research highlights the importance of perceived risk and the purchase type in shaping the structure of the decision-making unit. Individual decision-making is likely to occur in organizational buying for straight rebuys and for modified rebuy situations when the perceived risk is low. In these situations, the purchasing agent may initiate action. Modified rebuys of higher risk and new tasks seem to spawn a group structure.

In confronting “risky” purchase decisions, how do organizational buyers behave? As the risk associated with an organizational purchase decision increases:

  • The buying center will become larger and will comprise members with high levels of organizational status and authority.
  • The information search will be active and a wide variety of information sources will be considered to guide and support an important purchase decision. As the decision process unfolds, personal information sources (for example, discussions with managers at other organizations that have made similar purchasees) become more important.
  • Buying center participants will be motivated to invest greater effort and to deliberate more carefully throughout the purchase process.
  • Sellers who have a proven track record with the firm will be favored. The choice of a familiar supplier helps reduce the perceived risk associated with a purchase.

Rather than price, product quality and after-sale service are typically most important to organizational buyers when they confront “risky” decisions. When introducing new products, entering new markets, or approaching new customers, the marketing strategist should evaluate the impact of alternative strategies on perceived risk.

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

Peak Versus Off Peak Operation


An important practical problem in many industries is how to deal with sharp variations between peak and off-peak demands. Telephones are more heavily used during business hours than during evenings or weekends; local transit demands are greatest in the morning and afternoon commuting hours; in the arid areas water is more intensely demanded in summer than in winter months; restaurants are busiest at regular mealtimes, and so on. For a firm facing both peak and off-peak demands for its product, the optimization problem is how to divide its efforts between the two.

Assume for simplicity that the peak and off-peak periods are equal duration. Under pure competition the firm would be a price-taker in both the peak and off-peak markets. In the peak market it would face a higher price and in the off-peak market a lower price—but, in either market, the price will be independent of the firm’s own level of output. An example might be a city served by a number of competing taxicab suppliers, daytime hours being the peak demand period and evening hours the off-peak demand period. The quoted taxicab fares do not usually vary with time of day. However, the effective price of taxicab service does vary. In peak periods taxi earn a higher effective price, since there is less “dead time” waiting for a customer. And similarly, the customers have to pay a higher effective price in peak periods, since on average they have to wait longer for taxi to become available.

In analyzing the peak/off-peak situation, it is essential to distinguish between “common costs” and “saparable costs.” Common costs are those that apply to both peak and off-peak service. On the case of taxicabs they would include the costs of providing the casbs themselves, of running the central dispatching system,, and so on. Saparable costs are those incurred in serving each specific market. For taxicabs they might include gasoline and drivers’ wages. The distinction between common and saparable costs is quite apart from the distinction between fixed and variable costs. Common costs can be fixed or variable, and the same holds for saparable costs.

The following additional assumptions are employed: 1) There are no common fixed costs at all; the marginal common costs (MCC) is a constant magnitude. 2) The separable costs include both fixed and variable elements, but the cost function is the same in either market. However the firm may want to operate at different points along the cost curves in serving the two markets. A taxicab firm, for example, may chose to put a larger number of cabs on the road during peak period.

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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