“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.

New Product Sales Forecasting


Forecasting sales for a new product is an especially hazardous undertaking because no historical data is available. Companies typically employ consumer panels to obtain reactions to the products and to gauge probable purchase behavior. Test market data may also guide forecasts.

Since few products introduce totally new features to the market, forecasters can gain insight by carefully analyzing the sales of competing products that the new entry may displace. The situation method provides the forecaster with an estimate of market size and potential demand.

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.

Company Demographics


For all customers or prospect records the following basic attributes will lay a solid foundation for numerous segmentations:

  1. Category code: A four-digit code is usually a sufficiently descriptive definition your market is concentrated in several Standard Industry Codes, then going to the six or eight digit level may be appropriate. Remember the SIC is currently undergoing revision, so be flexible with this field.
  2. Company size: There are two choices – sales volume or employee size. It is probably best to use employee size, as it is more easily obtained and more accurate than company revenue. Record employee numbers by site so that they can be rolled up to the corporate level.
  3. Site Type and Linkage: There are some standard definitions here such as branch, division and corporate headquarters. It is important that you take time to develop a site definition that fits your business as this might include plant, research center, etc. secondly, link the sites to a corporate structure, so that a roll-up to the enterprise level can be carried out to look at the customer picture.
  4. Financial year: For those selling situations that involve the customer needing to budget for your product or service, the knowledge of the fiscal year becomes critical, as this will drive the buying process and therefore your selling cycle. Most companies are on a calendar/fiscal year, but about 20 percent are on a different fiscal year basis. In the consumer market this might also be relevant – for example in acquiring expensive items.

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 Process


The product development process involves analysis of the marketplace, the buyer, the company’s capabilities, and the economic potential of new product ideas. This process may be both expensive and time consuming. To accelerate the process, many companies create multidisciplinary teams so that manufacturing and marketing plans can be developed in tandem while the product is being designed.

  1. Generation and Screening of Ideas: The first step is to come up with ideas that will satisfy unmet needs. A producer may get new product ideas from its own employees or from external consultants, it may simply adapt a competitor’s idea, or it may buy the rights to someone else’s invention. Customers are often the best source of new product ideas.
  2. Business Analysis: A product idea that survives the screening stage is subjected to a business analysis. At this point the question is: Can the company make enough money on the product to justify the investment? To answer this question, companies forecast the probable sales of the product, assuming various pricing strategies. In addition, they estimate the costs associated with various levels of production. Given these projections, the company calculates the potential cash flow and return on investment that will be achieved if the product is introduced.
  3. Prototype Development: The next step is generally to create and test a few samples, or prototypes, of the product, including its packaging. During this stage, the various elements of the marketing mix are put together. In addition, the company evaluates the feasibility of large-scale production and specifies the resources required to bring the product to market.
  4. Product Testing: During the product testing stage, a small group of consumers actually use the product, often in comparison tests with existing products. If the results are good, the next step is test marketing, introducing the product in selected areas of the country and monitoring consumer reactions. Test marketing makes the most sense in cases where the cost of marketing a product far exceeds the cost of developing it.
  5. Commercialization: The final stage of development is commercialization, the large-scale production and distribution of those products that have survived the testing process. This phase requires the coordination of many activities—manufacturing, packaging, distribution, pricing and promotion. A classic mistake is letting marketing get out of phase with production so that the consumer is primed to buy the product before the company can supply it in adequate quantity. A mistake of this sort can be costly, because competitors may be able to jump in quickly. Many companies roll out their new products generally, going from one geographic area to the next. This enables them to spread the costs of launching the product over a longer period and to refine their strategy as the rollout proceeds.

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.

Traditional Manager Vs. Customer-focused Manager


A traditional manager focuses on current goals. Their time and their energy is preoccupied with a series of probably corporate internally focused objectives – whether this is making a sales target, budget, profitability or some other goal, such as market share. On the other hand a customer-focused manager is led and empowered by a vision. A vision based on quality as well as quantity and results. A vision that inherently has a customer satisfaction measure and a vision that creates a feeling of pride and satisfaction in working in that way.

A traditional manager is largely reactive – making decisions, implementing plans based on the input of those above them, around them or in the external environment. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ would be a common maxim. Today’s manager is largely proactive – ‘If it’s not broken, break it,’ because it’s going to be broken very soon. Today’s manager doesn’t wait for things to need a reason for change; they change things for the sake of it. Whether this is just simply the office layout, the times people take their lunch, company policies, prices, brochures, and markets – everything else has to be a proactive activity today. If you wait for the market to change you will probably always be one step behind. One step behind what the customers need and want and what your competitors are doing.

A traditional manager will often seek, either directly or indirectly, to limit other people’s participation. Typically, meetings between managers are excluded from input from other people, or they don’t involve other people perhaps as much as they should do – this is never seen as necessary. But today it is essential. Today’s manager has to promote involvement; they need opinions, thoughts, ideas, and feedback from all levels within the organization. The best way of achieving this is by one of two methods. The first is one we could loosely name ‘random communication,’ where just by simply creating the environment where people can mix and mingle, communicate, participate and share, ideas can be distributed. The other way is by doing something slightly more formal, by putting in place a series of waterfalls or communication falls where information and participation flows around the organization.

Traditional managers will probably reward people based on their qualifications or long service. A more customer-focused manager will reward and recognize people based on their ability to enhance customers and deliver excellence. For example, it is not uncommon for managers to regularly single out for some form of payment, or just simple recognition, those people in a customer service team who have gone beyond the normal levels and delivered something extraordinary during their job. Whether it was staying late sorting out a customer problem, coming up with an idea which helped the business move forward, making big improvements in their own work – these are the things that managers reward.

Another thing that has to change if you are going to move forward and lead successfully in a customer-focused organization is that you have to let go of solving problem yourself. One very successful manager who ran a very effective customer service team had a big sign on their wall. You can come in here with any problem at all, so long as you have one idea for a solution.

A traditional manager also sees their role as controlling information. They will keep their staff and other people on a ‘need to know’ basis. This is not how it works. Information should be shared, but not broadcast. A good manager will communicate actively and pro-actively to all concerned. He or she will keep them informed of the information they need to deliver the best possible service to the customer. This means the information is timely, relevant and understood.

Managing in today’s environment, with the pressures of working with ever demanding customers, will invariably result in matters of conflict and disagreement. Rather that patching these over, ignoring them, or letting them sort themselves out, as is perhaps more traditionally done by managers, these should now be sought out and moderated to a successful outcome.

A customer-focused manager ‘walks the talk’. He or she must act congruently and with the same values and honesty that they want their staff to deliver to their customers. That means they keep commitments, it means they under promise and over deliver, and they make everyone of their employees feel special and a valuable member of the team. Nobody just does a job and goes home, there is a purpose, a value and a mission.

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.

Customer Needs’ Gap


Not every customer has explicitly defined the gap between his or her present state and desired state. Defining the gap requires converting vaguely defined problems into clear statements of need. The more concrete and explicit the statement, the more likely is to recognize the need to take action.

Prepare for a customer call by speculating about the customer’s probable needs. You can often identify the general needs your potential customers may have before beginning formal discussions with them. This general understanding of problems can then be a springboard for a more detailed exploration of 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, Lectures, Line of Sight

Developing Audience’s Profile


If you’re communicating with someone you know well, perhaps your boss or a co-worker, audience analysis is easy. You can predict their reactions pretty well without a lot of research. On the other hand, if your audience is made up of strangers, you have to do some investigation to learn about them before you can use common sense to anticipate their reactions.

  • Determine audience size and composition.
  • Indentify the primary audience.
  • Estimate the audience’s probable reaction.
  • Guage the audience’s level of understanding.
  • Define your relationbship with the audience.

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

Adapting to Change


Competency models provide a tool for determining exactly what skills are required to meet the different needs of the present and probable needs of the future. For example, general agents of a life insurance company are responsible for managing the overall operation of the agency. With increased competition the focus shifted to strategic marketing, territory development and building leadership teams. The company was concerned that the people it was selecting to fill the agent’s role might not be able to meet the challenges of the changing business environment. By using a competency model to determine what behaviors the general agents were now required to perform, the company realized that the job was very different from what it had been five years earlier. Consequently, the company could begin to adjust in selection criteria to reflect the changing demands of the role. It could also ascertain the training needs of the current general agents by identifying their skill gaps and deciding which of those gaps ought to be addressed immediately to ensure high 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

Everything is Tentative


It’s easy to imagine that building a new product is like building a house—first the foundation, then the frame, then the first floor, and so on. Unfortunately, product aspects are rarely locked in that way. Occasionally they are, as when a technical process dominates development, or when a semifinished product is acquired from someone else, or when legal or industry requirements exist.

We usually assume everything is tentative, even up through marketing. Form can usually be changed, and so can costs, packaging, positioning, and service contracts. So can the marketing date and the reactions of government regulators. So can customer attitudes, as companies with long development times have discovered.

This means two long-held beliefs in new product work are actually untrue. One is that everything should be keyed to a single Go/No Go decision. Granted, one decision can be

Decisive—at times, for example, when a firm must invest millions of dollars in one large facility or when a firm acquires a license that commits it to major financial outlays. But many firms are finding ways to avoid such commitments, for example, by having another supplier produce the product for a while before making a facilities commitment, or by negotiating a tentative license, or by asking probable customers to join a consortium to ensure the volume needed to build the facility.

The other untrue truism is that financial analysis should be done as early as possible to avoid wasting money on poor projects. This philosophy leads firms to make complex financial analyses shortly after early concept testing, although the numbers are inadequate.

Still another tentative matter is the marketing date. Marketing actually begins very early in the development process—for example, when purchasing agents are asked in a concept test whether they think their firm would be interested in a new item. Rollouts are now so common it is hard to tell when all-out marketing begins.

Often no one pulls a switch and marketing instantly begins. We more often sneak up on it, which clearly affects the evaluation system.

What results in some cases is a sort of a rolling evaluation. The project is being assessed continuously, figures are penciled in, premature closure is avoided, and participants avoid mind-sets of good and bad.

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

Competitive Forces


Competitive strategy has become an area of specialty among management researchers and consultants. These specialists find that the competition within an industry is constrained by an underlying structure consisting of five powerful driving forces:

a)    Rivalry among existing firms in the industry

b)   The threat of new firms entering the industry

c)    The bargaining power of suppliers to the industry

d)   The bargaining power of the buyers from the industry

e)    The threat of substitute products or services

The underlying forces determine the profit margins that are characteristic of the industry. They limit the prospects for greater than normal profit margins. They influence the intensity of the competition and the long-term probable outcome of the competition. To entrepreneurs who are not familiar with these forces represent fate.

We often attribute the success of an entrepreneurial venture to its entrepreneur. We shouldn’t detract from the importance of the leader in a new venture, but it is very important to recognize that there are other forces that contribute to the success. A super individual with a good product entering an industry with an adverse underlying structure may have little success. A lessor individual entering an industry with a more favorable structure may succeed despite mistakes and misjudgments.

There may be many factors that influence a business firm’s performance in the short term. These factors are transient such as economic conditions, material shortages or strikes. In the long term, however, the five underlying structural forces determine the potential returns achievable by the industry. The various firms competing within an industry are thereby limited in their potential profit margins and returns on investment.

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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