Communities of Practice


One of the most successful uses of the Internet has been the emergence of informal knowledge communities or a community of interest. It is an environment usually outside of conventional organizational structures, where people can converse with each other about the common problems they face in their workplace or in their professional life, a common passion for some subject or a common mission. Most communities of practice are contained within a single organization but sometimes they cross institutional boundaries.

A community of practice does not necessarily have to be transacted solely on the Internet and in fact the most successful ones almost always have a face-to-face meeting component to them. As good a tool as the Internet is, it can never replace the intimacy and fullness of communication of face-to-face meetings of individuals. The importance of the internet to a community of practice js that it provides a link beyond the times when people can physically meet and hence sustains the group. It also permits a community of practice to develop among people who are not co-located.

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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Elaborative Creativity


Elaborative creativity is the innovative amplification of a core idea or principle. The difference is between say, staff empowerment as a core belief and its amplification into personnel policies, participative management structures, training programs, and so forth. Elaboration can become innovative when it is creatively contextualized, that is, creatively fitted to the organization’s situation rather than simply borrowed from elsewhere. It can become innovative when it is done participatively, involving various viewpoints and much brainstorming, and the ideas are creatively synthesized. It can become innovative when not just one but several powerful, possibly partially conflicting ideas are fused together to form its basis, such as the ideas of centralization and decentralization, control and authority, or internal entrepreneurship and efficiency. Elaboration can also become innovative when it is periodically reviewed and creatively modified to suit changing circumstances. And it can become innovative when it is benchmarked, not with practices of the leading competitor, but the world’s best practitioners. And not necessarily in the organization’s industry, but in any sector of activity, for then it may reveal gaps that can be bridged only innovatively. When elaboration is made innovative in these ways, it is difficult for others to copy it, and therefore such elaboration confers a competitive advantage on the organization.

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.

Post-sale Customer Loyalty


Maintaining the loyalty of major current customers can be crucial for improving a business’s profitability as its markets mature. Loyal customers become more profitable over time. The firm not only avoids the high costs associated with acquiring a new customer, but it typically  benefits because loyal customers a) tend to concentrate their purchases, thus leading to larger volumes and lower selling  and distribution costs, b) provide positive word-of-mouth and customer referrals, and c) may be willing to pay premium prices for the value they receive.

Periodic measurement of customer satisfaction is important, then, because a dissatisfied customer is unlikely to remain loyal to a company over time. Unfortunately, however, the corollary is not always true. Customers who describe themselves as satisfied are not necessarily loyal. Indeed, 60 to 80 percent of customer defectors in most businesses are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” before their defection. In the interim, perhaps, competitors improved their offerings, the customers requirements changed, or other environmental factors shifted. Businesses that measure customer satisfaction should be commended, but urged not to stop there. Satisfaction measures need to be supplemented with examinations of customer behavior, such as measures of the annual retention rate, frequency for purchases, and the percentage of a customer’s total purchases captured by the firm.

Defecting customers should be studied in detail to discover why the firm failed to provide sufficient value to retain their loyalty. Such failures often provide more valuable information than satisfaction measures because they stand out as a clear, understandable message  telling the organization exactly where improvements are needed..

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.

 

Thinking Before Signing a Franchise Agreement


A franchise agreement is a legally binding contract that defines the relationship between the franchise and the franchiser. Because the Agreement is drawn up by the franchiser, the terms and conditions generally favor the franchiser. You don’t necessarily have to agree to everything on the first go-round. Maybe you can negotiate a better deal. Before signing the franchise agreement, be sure consult an attorney. Here are some tips you must consider before signing the agreement:

  1. Are your legal responsibilities as a franchisee clear? Are your family members similarly obligated?
  2. Who is responsible for selecting the location of your business?
  3. Is the name or trademark of your franchise legally protected? Can the franchiser change or modify the trademark without consulting you?
  4. Has the franchiser made any oral promises that are not reflected in the written franchise agreement?
  5. What are your renewal rights? What conditions must you meet to renew your agreement?
  6. Do you have exclusive rights to a given territory or could the franchiser sell to additional franchisees who would become your competitors?
  7. Under what terms are you allowed or required to terminate the franchise agreement? What becomes of the lease and assets if the agreement is terminated? Are you barred from opening a similar business?
  8. Under what terms and conditions are you permitted or required to sell some or all of your interests in the franchise?
  9. Are you required to buy supplies from the franchiser or other specified suppliers? Under what circumstances can you choose your own suppliers?
  10. Has your attorney studied the written franchise agreement? Does it conform to the requirements of Government rules?

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 Intangibility and Measurement of Learning


An important aspect of learning is its intangibility. Learning is non-observable; it takes place within people and can only be inferred from actual behavior. For this reason, it is called an intervening variable. Because it must be inferred from behavior, it is often difficult to measure: other factors influence behavior, and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish what part of the behavior is attributable to learning. Two men may be assigned a task and given instructions on how to accomplish it. One may achieve much better results than the other, but that does not necessarily mean he has learned more. He may have had more ability to begin with, or he may have had a greater motivation to succeed than the other.

Performance is the result of learning, ability, motivation, and a variety of external factors. One man may produce more even having learned less because his ability or motivation enables him to perform more effectively. A student who works hard in a course and learns a great amount may see another student work less hard, appear to learn less, but receive a high grade. Such situations are common both in school and in the business world. The factor sometimes overlooked is the initial degree of skill or knowledge brought to the task, and the resultant effect on performance. Often it is performance that is observed, judged, and rewarded.

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.

Release of Free Cash Flow


The project entry typically has a finite life. Its dividend policy is usually specified contractually at the time any outside equity financing is arranged. Cash flow not needed to cover operating expenses, pay debt service, or make capital improvements—so-called free cash flow—must normally be distributed to the project’s equity investors. Thus, the equity investors, rather than professional managers, get to decide how the project’s free cash flow will be reinvested.

 When project is financed on a company’s general credit, the project’s assets become part of the company’s asset portfolio. Free cash flow from the project augments the company’s internal cash resources. This free cash flow is retained or distributed to the company’s shareholders at the discretion of the company’s board of directors.

 Project financing eliminates the element of discretion. Investors may prefer to have the project company distribute the free cash flow, allowing them to invest it as they choose. Reducing the risk that the free cash flow might be retained and invested without the project’s equity investors’ approval should reduce the cost of equity capital to the project.

 The sponsor is not necessarily placed at a disadvantage under this arrangement. If the sponsor is considering additional projects that it believes are profitable, it can negotiate funding for these projects with outside equity investors. If they agree to fund any of these additional investments within the project entity, the dividend requirement can be waived by mutual agreement and the funds invested accordingly.

 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

Company Performance Appraisal


Company performance appraisal studies the trends of specific profitability and productivity ratios derived from financial statements for at least past three  periods (year, quarter, month). Its main purpose is to diagnose problem areas through establishing productivity indicators for continuous monitoring and control of the whole enterprise, in order to set up an appropriate productivity improvement programs.

 

In conducting company performance appraisal, two basic comparisons have to be made:

a.       Between current performance and a historical base performance;

b.       Between actual performance and the target.

 

The former indicates whether performance is improving or declining and at what rate. The latter requires that performance or productivity targets be set and matched against actual performance.

 

Using profitability along as the basis for evaluating the overall performance of an organization makes it difficult to identify the cause of profitability changes. Are they due to productivity or price-cost movement? The following demonstrates this relationship:

 

            Output value     =          Quantity sold     X          Unit price

 

 

             Profitability       =          Productivity       X          Price recovery

 

 

             Input value        =          Quantity used    X          Unit cost

 

Considering the relationships over time, profitability is defined as charge in output value compared with change in input value; productivity as the change between quantity of output and/or quantity in unit price, and change in unit cost.

 

In effect, what is computed are performance ratios classified into:

  • Change in profitability;
  • Change in productivity;
  • Change in price recovery.

 These performance ratios are then evaluated in relation to their effect on profits. In general, a drop in profitability, in productivity or in price recovery reduces profits. Lower productivity signals a need for further analysis and for correction action. However, increased productivity does not necessarily lead to profitability on a short-term basis. The effect of increased productivity will be realized only in terms of long-term profitability.

 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