Closed-loop Teams


For years, banks have taken several days, and even weeks and sometimes months to get a decision to a personal loan applicant. The application would be passed around the various departments, traveling at its own pace. A series of supervisors, clerks, and internal mailpeople handled it. Today, aggressive banks take the application directly into a focused, coordinated group—a credit analyst, a collateral appraiser, and a senior personal banker—who decide and respond to the customer sometimes in thirty minutes and always inside a day. This is a small closed-loop team.

 

A closed-loop team includes everyone who is necessary to make the deliverable flow. The team includes all the needed functional people and decision-makers and is self-scheduling. Everyone the team is working for the same objective—to provide the deliverable on time. The team is empowered to make decisions and to act. It has all functions inside it with short lines of communication. Its leader is responsible for its overall performance and for seeing that it gets all the capability, both technicall and human, it needs. All of these are essential to flexibility.

 

The old bank loan approval process was open loop. There was no continuity in the process, no visible standard, little learning between the principles, only occasional feedback on the process, and no one responsible for making it better.

 

In order for the loop to close on a process it must be tightly organized around the deliverable; the same core group must be involved in the process every day; and there must be a working leader on the team.

 

Small teams work better than large ones because large groups create communication problems of their own. It’s best to include only essential functions and to exclude people whose job is peripheral to the deliverable. For example, the bank loan team excludes accounting and records people. Teams have to be self-managing and empowered to act because referring decisions back up the line wastes time and often leads to poor decisions. So the team ioncludes a bank officer because if the officer were not on the team, he or she would be prone to second-guess the group’s decisions. Its better if all the questions are asked and answers are exchanged just once.

 

Closd-loop teams handle variety better than open-loop teams because they can create new information and flexibility.

 

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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Conflict Management


With the turn of economic wheel conflict has entered into our daily life as an indispensable impedimenta. Whether in domestic, professional or political living and breathing world we are dominated by lacking conflict management skills and hence dragging on with antipathy, bitter feelings and state of war. For creating a fraternal, congenial and harmonious environment we ought to master skills essential for dealing with conflict.

Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs. It can also originate from past rivalries and personality differences.

The first step in managing conflict is to analyze the nature and type of conflict. To do this, you’ll find it helpful to ask questions.

Collaboration results from a high concern for your group’s own interests, matched with a high concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is win/win. This strategy is generally used when concerns for others are important. This approach helps build commitment and reduce bad feelings. Some partners may take advantage of the others’ trust and openness. Generally regarded as the best approach for managing conflict, the objective of collaboration is to reach consensus.

Compromise strategy results from a high concern for your group’s own interests along with a moderate concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is win some/lose some. This strategy is generally used to achieve temporary solutions, to avoid destructive power struggles or when time pressures exist.

Competition strategy results from a high concern for your group’s own interests with less concern for others. The outcome is win/lose. This strategy includes most attempts at bargaining. It is generally used when basic rights are at stake or to set a precedent. It can cause the conflict to escalate and losers may try to retaliate.

Accommodation results from a low concern for your group’s own interests combined with a high concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is lose/win. This strategy is generally used when the issue is more important to others than to you. It is a goodwill gesture. It is also appropriate when you recognize that you are wrong. The drawbacks are that your own ideas and concerns don’t get attention. You may also lose credibility and future influence.

Avoidance results from a low concern for your group’s own interests coupled with a low concern for the interests of others. The outcome is lose/lose. This strategy is generally used when the issue is trivial or other issues are more pressing. It is also used when confrontation has a high potential for damage or more information is needed.

Several enemies often combine to create contention. The first enemy is the natural need to want to explain the side first. After all, we reason, if they understood our perspective, they would come to the same conclusions we did. The second enemy is ineffectiveness as listeners. Listening is much more than being quiet so we can have our turn. The third enemy is fear. Fear that we will not get our way. Fear of losing something we cherish. Fear we will be made to look foolish. The fourth enemy is the assumption that one of us has to lose if the other is going to win. Differences can only be solved competitively.

Two principles have contributed so much to the productive handling of disagreements that it is difficult to read about the subject in scholarly works without their mention. The first principle: Seek first to understand, then to be understood, was introduced by Steven Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If we encourage others to explain their side first, they will be more apt to listen to ours.

Roger Fisher and William Ury introduced the second communication principle in their seminal work, Getting to Yes. Simply stated, it is that people in disagreement focus on their positions when instead they should be focusing on their needs. By focusing on positions we tend to underscore our disagreements. When we concentrate on needs, we find we have more in common than what we had assumed. Ury and Fisher then went on to say that when we focus on needs we can attempt to satisfy the sum of both our needs and their needs.

The parties to any conflict can also explore a problem-solving approach inspired by an ancient Tibetan Buddhist teaching known as the four karmas. These four karmas follow a developmental sequence that begins with pacifying or calming the situation, enriching positive aspects by bringing in multiple perspectives, magnetizing larger perspectives or additional resources, and finally, if necessary, destroying old patterns and behaviors that no longer serve.

Traditionally the four karmas is a personal practice that allows one to become attuned to the natural energies in a situation, and to transform confusion and aggression into creativity, compassion, and intelligent action.

How can we solve our tough problems without resorting to force? How can we overcome the apartheid syndrome in our homes, workplaces, communities, countries, and even globally? How can we heal our world’s gaping wounds? To answer these questions is simple, but it is not easy. We have to bring together the people who are co-creating the current reality to co-create new realities. We have to shift from downloading and debating to reflective and generative dialogue. We have to choose an open way over a closed way.

It is good to talk about the past. A discussion of past behaviors is essential to analyze patterns of conflict and help conflicting parties to find constructive ways of handling future disagreements. Without understanding the past, it is hard to prepare for the future. At some point, however, the focus of discussion turns to that of future behaviors, rather than past injuries. The sooner the participants can focus on the future, the greater the chances of successful resolution.

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

Compelling Business Principles


The development of the business principles is a first stage for developing and raising the standards of practice in countering bribery. The fair business principles provide a practical tool to which companies can look for a comprehensive reference to good practice to counter bribery. Business principles are becoming an essential tool in the future for businesses and the companies of today should encourage using them as a starting point for developing their own anti-bribery systems or as a benchmark.

I had heard and even observed how corrupt practices are carried out in businesses that add the extras to win export orders. For toting up luster to the evenings of the visiting business partners particularly from Gulf States, they fix up their visits to discotheques and nightspots. They also maintain luxury flats outfitted with floozy beauties for making the stay of the business guests a unique affair.

Unfortunately, such unethical practices have sneaked into the system via some (not all) businesses in different countries. That’s what I personally experienced when once as member of a foreign business team visiting an Asian country and staying at a luxury hotel, a businessman tried unethical tricks to win business contracts. He called from the lobby and told about the undeserved and undesired gift he brought for me.

Years ago in a domestic flight to the capital in a country in Asia a passenger seated next to me told that he was visiting the capital about a government tender. He was confident that he would win the contract. When I asked about the source of his confidence he pointed to two girls seated in the rear and said, “Those butterflies (exquisite women) will make it happen.”

Most of companies contribute to election campaigns of this candidate or that. Interestingly sometimes some companies sponsor candidates of two opposing political parties. The idea is to get unjustifiable favors after the horse wins.

There can be endless list of such companies, which are ready to do anything to get business favors.

It is no mystery that a lapse in business ethics or even the appearance of one can significantly harm the reputation and business of a company. Once a company is suspected, accused, or found guilty of corporate wrongdoing, it often becomes subject to the scrutiny of governmental agencies, the corporate community and the general public.

Private sector organizations must now take account of increasingly stringent domestic and international regulatory frameworks. There is growing corporate awareness of the risks posed by bribery, particularly in the light of scandals, and the public is expecting greater accountability and probity from the corporate sector.

Emphasis needs to be laid on business principles for enterprises to prohibit bribery in any form whether direct or indirect. They should also commit to implementation of programs for countering bribery. These principles are based on a commitment to fundamental values of integrity, transparency and accountability. Firms should aim to create and maintain a trust-based and inclusive internal culture in which bribery is not tolerated.

Thus an enterprise’s anti-bribery efforts including values, policies, processes, training and guidance will become tools of future corporate governance and risk management strategies for countering bribery and unethical practices.

As part of civil society, at macro level, Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry should work out a framework reflecting size of the companies, business sectors, potential risks and locations of operations. This should, clearly and in reasonable detail, articulate values, policies and procedures for preventing bribery from occurring in all activities under their effective control.

Such programs should be consistent with all laws relevant to countering bribery in all the jurisdictions in which an enterprise operates, particularly laws that are directly relevant to specific business practices.

At micro level each enterprise should develop programs in consultation with its employees, trade unions or other employee representative bodies. It should ensure that it is informed of all matters material to the effective development of the program by communicating with relevant interested parties.

While developing its program for countering bribery, the companies should analyze which specific areas pose the greatest risks from bribery. The programs should address the most prevalent forms of bribery relevant to each firm but at a minimum should cover areas such as bribes, political contributions, facilitation payments, gifts, hospitality and expenses.

A company should prohibit the offer, gift, or acceptance of a bribe in any form, including kickbacks, on any portion of a contract payment, or the use of other routes or channels to provide improper benefits to customers, agents, contractors, suppliers or employees of any such party or government officials.

It should also prohibit an employee from arranging or accepting a bribe or kickback from customers, agents, contractors, suppliers, or employees of any such party or from government officials, for the employee’s benefit or that of the employee’s family, friends, associates or acquaintances.

The enterprise, its employees or agents should not make direct or indirect contributions to political parties, organizations or individuals engaged in politics, as a way of obtaining advantage in business transactions.

Each company should publicly disclose all its political contributions, charitable contributions and sponsorships. It should ensure that charitable contributions and sponsorships are not being used as a subterfuge for bribery.

The enterprise should prohibit the offer or receipt of gifts, hospitality or expenses whenever such arrangements could affect the outcome of business transactions and are not reasonable and bona fide expenditures.

The board of directors, CEOs and senior management should demonstrate visible and active commitment to the implementation of the business principles.

The business organizations should assert elimination of bribery; demonstrate their commitment to countering bribery; and make a positive contribution to improving business standards of integrity, transparency and accountability wherever they operate. Business principles are going to evolve reflection of changes in anti-bribery practice as well as the lessons learned from their use and application by business.

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

Levers of Change


While there are very few general rules in organizational change, some general principles hold true for all organizations. A good place to start for most organizations in competitive, dynamic environments is to look at the four levers of change. These are technology, quality, costs and marketing—four areas that can be targeted for change.

 

Technology does not refer only to tools, equipment and machinery. It also includes information, knowledge, and activities that are involved in the physical transformation of inputs into outputs. The outputs may be products or services. Any physical transformation task has a choice of technologies associated with it. In a business environment characterized by increased global competition, management of technology has become a major area of concern for organizations.

 

Quality is all about meeting or exceeding customer expectations. It is a critical element in any change effort because customers are the ultimate judge of the success of the change effort. If the change does not result in products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations, it has obviously not achieved its purpose.

 

Costs or productivity constitutes the third lever of change. In today’s business environment, customers are very cost-conscious and are unwilling to pay for products or services that do not meet their expectations. With increased competition, they have more choices. Consequently, they are no longer dependent on a single supplier or a few suppliers for products and services. Widening the choice has resulted in customers demanding more value for their money. A challenge for most organizations is to enhance quality while reducing costs. This requires carefully planned processes, systems and work habits.

 

Marketing refers to the mechanisms for delivering products and services to the customer. It includes: attracting new customers to your organization’s offerings; retaining existing and new customers; and examining your distribution channels, marketing structures and procedures.

 

Each of these levers is supported by a set of structures, processes and procedures such as human resource practices. Any changes in the levers will also require corresponding changes in these structures, processes and procedures. In the first phase of appreciation, it is not necessary to work out these details but you need to be aware of the linkages that need to be strengthened at the implementation stage.

 

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

Psychic Profile of a Healthy Company


Just 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 enthusiaism 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 how 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 one weakens all; robustness in one value strengthens all. The values at at the heart of the healthy company enable it to continuously grow, evolve, and renew itself, reinforcing what is productive and positive 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 itsemployees 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 profiot 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 people. The result is an organizatipn 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

The Fudges of Brainstorming


The term brainstorming has passed into common English usage. Invented by Alex Osborn, a versatile advertising executive, brainstorming has come now to mean freewheeling discussion.

The principles of brainstorming as a technique are deceptively simple:

  1. All evaluative or critical comments are taboo during the phase of generating ideas or solutions.
  2. The attempt is to generate a very large number of ideas or solutions. The logic is that at least a small proportion of ideas tend to be high quality that are both novel and useful, so that the larger the number of ideas generated the larger may be the number of quality ideas that are produced.
  3. Emphasize novelty, not correctness or appropriateness. The stranger the ideas solutions, the better. The reason is that strange ideas demolish existing mental frames and liberate the mind to generate and accept unconventional ideas.
  4. Participants in a brainstorm are encouraged to build on each other’s ideas.

Typically, in a brainstorm, a specific problem is first introduced. The problem must be quite specific, and capable of many alternative solutions. Thus, one cannot brainstorm on a vague problem like how to increase productivity, now on a problem with one right answer, such as what was worker productivity in the plant last month But how to increase worker productivity by 30% in a particular is quite appropriate for brainstorming. Gnenerally, brainstorming problems are preceded by how to …

After the problem is stated and clarified, the brainstorm begins.Each group member gives one . . . .

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 Asif J. Mir.