Group Decision-Making


The person leading the discussion can have a big effect on whether the group’s decision is useful. If a chairperson monopolizes and continually shoots down others’ ideas while pushing his or her own, it’s likely that other points of view will go unexpressed.

An effective discussion leader has responsibility to do the following:

  1. See that all group members participate. As discussion leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that all group members participate and have an opportunity to express their opinions. Doing so can help ensure that different points of view emerge and that everyone takes ownership of the final decision.
  2. Distinguish between idea getting and idea evaluation. Evaluating and criticizing proposed solutions and ideas actually inhibit the process of getting  or generating new ideas. Yet in most group discussions, one person presents an alternative, and others begin immediately discussing its pros and cons. As a result, group members quickly become apprehensive about suggesting new ideas. Distinguishing between the idea getting and idea evaluation stages—in particular, forbidding criticism of an idea until all ideas have been presented—can be useful here.
  3. Not respond to each participant or dominate the discussion. Remember that the discussion leader’s main responsibility is to elicit ideas from the group, not to supply them. As a discussion leader, you should therefore work hard to facilitate free expression of ideas and avoid dominating the discussion.
  4. See that the effort is directed toward overcoming surmountable obstacles. In other words, focus on solving the problem rather than on discussing historical events that cannot be changed. Some groups make the mistake of becoming embroiled in discussion about who is to blame for the problem or what should have been done to avoid the problem. Such discussions can’t lead to solutions because the past can’t be changed. As a discussion leader, your job is to ensure that the group focuses on obstacles that can be overcome and solutions that can be implemented.

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.

Preparing for Implementation


The best participation for smooth and effective implementation is through work on the first phases of the change effort together with extensive communication among all participants about the intent and the direction of the change effort. Assuring that all participants know the expectations and parameters of the change episode enhances clarity and control. Concrete and specific objectives, planned design and structure, and resource commitments provide the basic blueprint for implementation.

Also helpful in preparing for implementation is attention to two facts of the context: change residue and overlap between planning and implementing systems. The change agent will find analysis of residue help in anticipating possible obstacles to the transition from planning to operation. Assessment of overlap—or the absence of it—will contribute to understanding communication needs.

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.

Stumbling on Leadership


Using today’s methods of managing the technical development process, the most important decision top management makes on a new product is the selection of the group leader. The second most important decision is to stay out of the way and let the leader lead.

But who is a leader? Or, better, who will develop into a leader? The person has a non-authoritative position; that is, a leader has no line authority over such co-workers as peers, peers’ subordinates, temporary employees, vendors (subcontractors, suppliers), customers, and bosses. The leader leads in a milieu that can change from supportive to hostile overnight, with parameters that are almost completely unknown (e.g., competitive reactions), and with a new and even more inexperienced team of people.

Yet that person can overcome virtually every obstacle. That person alone can enthuse and motivate a group of people to do what seems impossible. Fortunately there is lots of this leadership around, managers with successful track records in this work and many managers who are as yet undiscovered. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to pick out the undiscovered.

Compounding all of this is the conviction of some firms that a new products project actually needs two leaders, a creative, inspiring type for early on, and a tough disciplinarian for the later stages. Very rarely do we find people who can do both.

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.

Transformation Checklist


  • Does your company have a vision of a flatter and more flexible form of organization?
  • Is there a corporate-wide transformation program in place to  bring it about?
  • Does it address winning business and the creation of value, ‘know-how,’ opportunities and new ventures?
  • Does the program embrace facilitating skills, enabling processes and supporting technology?
  • Is it designed to influence attitudes by changing behavior?
  • How disruptive will it be of short-term customer relationship?
  • What will be done to retain the commitment of those who may be disadvantaged at a particular stage in the change process?
  • How committed is top management to achieving the transformation?
  • How this commitment been communicated?
  • Do the managers of the organization, and particularly the senior managers, behave as role models?
  • Have all the requirements for a successful transformation been identified?
  • What ‘building blocks’ or ‘pieces of the jigsaw puzzle’ might be missing?
  • In particular, are the necessary enablers in place, and have skill requirements been addressed?
  • Is it clear to the people of the organization that the program has been thought through?
  • Is the reward system compatible with the changes that are being sought?
  • Have likely obstacles and barriers been identified, and are programs in place to deal with them?

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

Commitment to Plan


Management commitment to plan is a difficult concept to define and probably the most difficult area to probe. At the same time, it is in many respects the most crucial area. A deep-rooted sense of commitment is why certain management teams are able to overcome all obstacles and still achieve planned results. It is the same ingredient that enables a team to win against tough competition even though their best players are injured or all the breaks in the game go against them.

Without attempting to be a psychologist, there are several things to look for to determine whether this sense of commitment exists. What has been the track record of those submitting the plan? It is a positive sign if they have a history of fulfilling commitments. Conversely, if the group has not met its commitments in the past, it is essential to find out what has changed to make their commitment to the current plan any more meaningful. Is this evidence that individuals understand how a failure to meet their personal or functional commitments would jeoperdize the ability of the whole group to accomplish its plan? Is there any indication that anyone in the group feels that function has overcommitted or that they have been pressured into making commitments that are unrealistic?

 It is unikely that anyone will admit they are not committed to a plan they developed and recommend. But questions directed to each functional area about the certainty or difficulty of achieving their part of the plan help everyone see what musdt be done to successfully implement the plan. Such questioning helps to establish the importance of each individual’s personal commitments not only to the plan but to the rest of the organization. In a sense, it helps to develop a form of peer pressure, which is just as important in the execution of the business plan as it is in other walks of life. No one enjoys being in the position of having let teammates down.

 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

The Changing Face of Customer Service


Excellent customer service—the daily, ongoing support of a company’s offerings—is critical in creating brand identity and ultimate success. It includes answering questions, taking orders, dealing with billing issues, handling complaints, scheduling appointments, and similar activities. These essential functions can make or break an organization’s relationships with its customers. The quality of customer care can significantly impact brand identity for service, manufacturing, and consumer products companies. Because of its importance in creating impressions and sustaining customer relationships, customer service has sometimes been called the “front door” of the organization or its “face.”

 

So how has the “face” of customer service changed with the influx of technology? Long ago all customer service was provided face-to-face through direct personal interaction between employees and customers. To get service you had to visit stores or service providers in person. The telephone changed this, allowing customers to call companies and speak directly with employees. Customer service became less personal, but without a doubt more efficient, through use of the telephone. With the evolution of computer technology, customer service representatives (CSRs) became even more efficient. Through computer information systems and customer data files, CSRs are able to call up customer records at their workstations to answer questions on the spot.

 

Over time, because communication and computer technologies allowed it, large organizations began to centralize their customer service functions, consolidating into a few large call centers that could be located anywhere in the country or world. But still, in these types of call centers, customer service is for the most part an international event with customers talking directly, one-on-one with an employee.

 

The advent and rapid proliferation of the efficient, but much maligned, automated voice response systems have changed personal customer service in many organizations into menu-driven, automated exchanges. In almost every industry and any business context consumers encounter these types of systems, and many are quite frustrating—for example, when a system has a long confusing set of menu options or when no menu options seems to fit the purpose of the call. Similarly, consumers become angered when they cannot get out of the automated system easily, or when there is no option to speak to a live person.

 

Some companies have overcome these obstacles, however, and have well-designed automated telephone systems that work well for customers. This is accomplished through a form of natural-language speech recognition technology that allows customers to easily interact through the telephone in ways that are much like talking to a real person. Further, a human contact is always easy to get to if needed. Customer satisfaction is rated among the highest in any industry. One of the keys may be that the vice president of retail voice technology occupies a senior management position, showing importance placed on this function. In general, satisfaction levels for automated speech recognition systems are higher than satisfaction with touch-tone systems and in some cases are higher than for live agents.

 

Beyond automated telecom systems, explosion of the internet is also dramatically changing customer service for many companies. Service can now be provided on the internet via e-mail, website robots, FAQs, and online chat. In these cases there is no direct human interaction, and customers actually perform their own service. At Ford Motor Company’s technology that allows dealership customers to set their own service appointments, send messages regarding their specific repair needs, and monitor the status of their vehicles, all online.

 

With the relentless proliferation of technology solutions, firms are finding that expectations for customer service have changed. Customers are demanding choices in how they get customer service, whether it be over the phone, automated voice systems, via fax or email, or through internet self-service. However, while customers often enjoy technology-based service and even demand it in many cases, they dislike it when it doesn’t work reliably (a common problem), when it doesn’t seem to have any advantages over the interpersonal service alternatives, and when there are no systems in place to recover from failures. Interestingly, when things don’t work as they are supposed to on an internet site or through an automated response system, customers are quick to look for more traditional interpersonal (in person or via telephone) options, coming full circle to where we started.

 

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