Market-oriented Ethnography


To fully understand how customers of other cultures assess and use services, it is necessary and effective to use approaches, such as market-oriented ethnography. This set of approaches allows researchers to observe consumption behavior in natural settings. The goal is to enter the consumer’s world as much as possible—observing how and when a service is used in an actual home environment or consumption environment, such as watching consumers eat in restaurants or attend concerts. Among the techniques used are observation, interviews, documents, and examination of material possessions, such as artifacts. Observation involves entering the experience as a participant observer and watching what occurs rather than asking questions about it. One-on-one interviews, particularly with key informants in the culture rather than consumers themselves, can provide compelling insights about culture-based behavior. Studying existing documents and cultural artifacts can also provide valuable insights, especially about lifestyles and usage patterns.

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


Problem solving is an important process in quality management. If quality has to be improved then the existing problems are to be solved. Having problems is considered as a stigma in many organizations. But it should be understood that existence of problems is normal and only the continuous existence is a stigma.

Often people live with the philosophy: “We are born in problems, so let us live with problems and die taking the problems with us.” This is quite detrimental to the quality movement. One should have the courage to accept the fact that he has problems and have the patience to identify the same and have the potential to solve them.

Once the problem is identified, it should be defined. Often people end up stating the problems. That should be avoided. Defining the problem gives a better understanding of the problem and on a few occasions the solution is located in the definition itself. The 12 steps involved in problem solving are:

  1. Problem identification.
  2. Problem definition.
  3. Problem analysis.
  4. Identifying causes.
  5. Finding the root cause.
  6. Data analysis.
  7. Solutions generation.
  8. Identifying resistances.
  9. Plan for solution implementation.
  10. Implementation.
  11. Observation
  12. Standardization.

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.

Japan’s Manufacturing Techniques


Nations are built not with bricks and stones but with the capacity to create and apply knowledge. The result of knowledge creation and application in manufacturing and management practices is well demonstrated by Japan. Today we are witness to many industrialized economies that are strengthening their manufacturing activities simply by adopting these techniques.

The distinguishing characteristics associated with Japanese manufacturing techniques include an emphasis on designing and redesigning processes to optimize efficiency and a strong commitment to quality.

The manufacturing techniques that Japanese companies practice provide a competitive advantage and outstanding economic performance. The key for success is an understanding of the broad context of manufacturing culture, infrastructure and environment. These sound manufacturing and business techniques created and adopted by leading Japanese manufacturers have turned out to be the secret of their market leadership in many industries.

Following are a few of these concepts, which can help in managing any business set-up in a better way:

  • Kaizen is one such technique, which in Japanese means ‘improve.’ This is commonly recognized as practices focusing on continuous improvement in manufacturing activities, business activities in general, and even life in general, depending on interpretation and usage. By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen helps in eliminating waste.
  • Another management Japanese technique is the 5-S. It is a technique used to establish and maintain quality environment in an organization. It has five elements: Seiri (sorting out useful and frequently used materials and tools from unwanted and rarely used things); Seiton (keeping things in the right place systematically so that searching or movement time is minimized); Seiso (keeping everything around you clean and in a neat manner); Seiketsu (standardizing the above principles in everyday life) and Shitsuke (inculcating good habits and practicing them continuously). The 5-S practice helps everyone in the organization to live a better life.
  • Kanban and ‘Just in Time’ are two other practices in inventory management practices that were pioneered by the Japanese automobile manufacturers, such as Toyota. Quality improvement, on the other hand, is the result of lower proportion of component scrap since the components spend less time in the supply chain.
  • Poka-yoke is a process improvement focused on training of workers for mastering the increasingly complicated tasks to selectively redesign the tasks so they could be more easily and reliably mastered. It involves designing a foolproof process to eliminate the chance of errors.
  • Jidoka is a practice by means of which an individual worker runs several machines simultaneously. Japan thus designs such machines that eliminate both error and the need for constant supervision.
  • Muda is another technique that reduces wasteful activity in service processes. It ensures process efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Mura curiously combines rigidity and flexibility and thus teaches service process improvement.
  • Reducing Muri means reducing physical strain. In services process improvement, Muri applies to convoluted and unnecessary routings, physical transfer, and distances paper files may have to travel for a process to complete.
  • Genchi Gembutsu means going to the actual scene (genchi) and confirming the actual scene (gembutsu). Observation of service processes at the point where it is actually delivered may unearth a host of problems such as lack of training, unnecessary steps, or a number of other areas that would benefit from small but significant process improvement ideas.

This is a glimpse of manufacturing techniques that Japan has so intellectually created and so profoundly practiced in its manufacturing systems that even with no natural resources, it has acquired the status of one of the most industrialized nations. Can we learn from Japan?

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, Lectures, Line of Sight.

Markets as Networks


Actual firm relationships must be seen on a spectrum between outright competition at one end and collusion at the other. At the very least, such a self-evident observation raises the issue of the firm (or business unit) as the basic, and often only, unit of analysis: in certain circumstances we might more appropriately consider an information coalition of such firms as the key unit.

Earlier, the border of the company was seen as the dividing line between co-operation and conflict – cooperation within the company and conflict in relation to all external units. The corresponding means for coordination are heirarchy and the market mechanism. The existence of relationships makes this picture more diffuse. There are great opportunities for cooperation with a lot of external units forming, for example, coalitions. Thus, it is often more fruitful to see the company as a part of a network instead of a free and independent actor in an atomistic martket.

However, the recognition that there is a network of relationships is merely the first step. Approaches need to be developed for the analysis of the network.

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, Lectures, Line of Sight

Principles of Visionary Leadership


The breakthrough leaders should stand at the organization’s boundary and bring in outside information. They must also communicate their company’s philosophy to the outside world. In their book Breakthrough Management, Shoji Shiba and David Walden have defined the eight principles of visionary leadership as follows:

1)      Principle 1: The visionary leader must do on-site observation leading to personal perception of changes in societal values from an outsider’s point of view.

2)      Principle 2: Even though there is resistance, never give up; squeeze the resistance between outside-in pressure in combination with top-down inside instruction.

3)      Principle 3: Transformation is begun with symbolic disruption of the old or traditional system through top-down efforts to create chaos within the organization.

4)      Principle 4: The direction of transformation is illustrated aimed by a symbolic visible image and the visionary leader’s symbolic behavior.

5)      Principle 5: Quickly establishing new physical, organizational and behavioral systems is essential for successful transformation.

6)      Principle 6: Real change leaders are necessary to enable transformation.

7)      Principle 7: Create an innovative system to provide feedback from results.

8)      Principle 8: Create a daily operation system, including a new work structure, new approach to human capabilities and improvement activities.

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

Creative Management of Product Design


An emerging area of importance is product/process design. In increasingly competitive, sophisticated markets, attractively designed products or processes sell well; shoddily designed products are left alone on the shelves. Excellent product design requires high orders of essence creativity (novel ideas), elaborative creativity (contextually relevant elaborations of ideas that are unique because of the kinds of components utilized and the way they are fitted together), and expressive creativity (unique aesthetic features). There can be following basic steps for coming up with successful and creative product design:

a)    The designing unit should have members with diverse expertise so that their brainstorms can result in unique product design concepts that are also practical.

b)   It is imperative that the design unit has an in-depth understanding of the client and the market, the technologies needed or involved, and the nature of the problem and the constraints that need to be kept in mind.

c)    The design unit must take the trouble to observe people in real-life situations to identify their needs, difficulties, likes, dislikes, etc. Creative design needs creative observation, that is observation that is not only accurate but also multi-angled so as to yield interesting design possibilities. Innovation begins with eyes. The design unit needs to create a ‘bug-list,’ that is, a list of the problems that presently bug the likely users of the future products.

d)   The design unit needs to visualize a new product concepts and the customers who could be captivated by them. This can involve building several physical models and prototypes, simulations on the computer, and creation of videos that portray high the new product may be used by people well before it comes into existence.

e)    The design unit needs to evaluate and refine the prototypes/models through several quick iterations, each one involving changes and improvements. Inputs should be secured not only from members of the design unit, but also from experts, the client, and the potential consumers. Exceptional design seldom come right the first time around. Serially generated improvements based on the reactions and suggestions of the product’s stakeholders can quickly get the design unit to an exceptional design.

f)     Effective implementation that leads to the commercial use of the product. This is often a long and tedious process that creative teams frequently neglect. But the planning of milestones, cost cutting and cost control efforts, packaging and so forth are indispensable if a product design is to taste commercial success.

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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