Truth and Reconciliation in Business


Access to the truth is a fundamental human right and as such it must form the foundation of any truly amazing organization capable of maintaining long-term, mutually respectful and beneficial relationships. This is as true of organizations as it is of nation states or families.

Truth and Reconciliation in business aims to achieve exactly what it says. It aims to get to the truth about the way relationships are being conducted and it aims to use the acceptance of that truth as the basis for reconciling the organization and building fresh new relationships.

If we want our organization to be amazingly successful we must confront and overcome the practice of having completely separate management, employee and stakeholder perspectives, dividing the way we see our organization’s current and future priorities.

We need to develop one working culture capable of uniting our un-reconciled and incompatible aspirations and goals. This requires us to focus not only on our systems and processes but to build strong, dynamic relationships based on dialogue, interaction, genuinely shared values, mutual respect, inclusiveness, openness and trust.

Truth and reconciliation, as practiced by nation states, such as, South Africa, is a detailed process used under the most extreme situations – far removed from anything or indeed any of us has probably seen in any organization.

But let’s not miss the lessons these experiences can teach us about unity and strength, and about how to create harmony in inharmonious situations. Truth and reconciliation in business is significantly scaled-down version with reduced scope based on a drastically reduced need. What it does do, however, is adhere to principles proven in the most extreme environments where demands for forgiveness take on monumental proportions.

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.

Self-Respect


Self-respect is a rule of successful living. Think about it everyday until you apply it to everything you do.

People respect us in direct proportion to how much we respect ourselves. If you think of yourself as a first-class person, others will show you first-class respect. But if your self-concept is “I’m a second-class nobody,” you will receive little respect. You are headed straight for the land of nobodies.

No store carries a product called “self-respect,” so we cannot buy it. Nor can we inherit self-respect. It doesn’t come with the genes. And we can’t borrow self-respect from someone who has it. It has only the source: One’s self.

Meneius, a wise Greek said 2400 years ago, “A superior person will not show narrow-mindedness or the lack of self-respect.” We do not respect the person at work who belittles other people, rides hard over the workers, looks like a bum, and constantly uses profanity. The behavior of such people tells us they lack self-respect, so why should we respect them? Lack of self-respect is instilled in many people by a negative environment.

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.

 

Response to Failure


What happens when someone makes a mistake that sends you through the roof? What happens when you want to rip a person apart for having made a mistake, even when he or she acted within the established guidelines?

First of all, it is important to recognize that those feelings are not a sign of weakness, they simply mean that you are human. The important thing is what you do with those feelings.

If you act on them immediately, more than likely you will destroy any trust you have established between the person and you. Any progress you have made in convincing people that it is okay to fail can be undone in an instant.

You will be better able to accomplish your objectives if you will abide by this unwritten rule: Never reprimand a person unless you are in full control of your own thoughts and emotions. This way you won’t say or do things that may result in momentary satisfaction in the short term but regret in the long term.

I am not suggesting that you never show emotion to your people that you let them know you are angry or upset. Showing your people how you feel can be quite beneficial at times, provided it is shown in an appropriate way and for the right reasons.

When you respond constructively to people’s failures you are doing the single most important thing you can do to let them know that it is okay to fail.

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.

Equal Employment Opportunity


For the last 5-6 decades, women and ethnic minorities have sought equal employment opportunities. These include the desire for a) equal pay for equal work; b) jobs for women and minorities in high-pay, high-prestige occupations—in approximate proportion to their members in the general population; c) a fair chance for women and minorities to be promoted to better jobs based on merit; and d) recognition of the special problems women and minorities face.

Even though the number of working women has grown many times faster than the number of working men, they are concentrated in clerical and service jobs, where they earn less than men for the same work—even when education and work experience are equal. Women also suffer from untrue stereotypes and absenteeism and emotional instability. And they sometimes have to do much better work than their male colleagues to be promoted.

Business can help create equal employment opportunity by providing women with role models—examples of productive and successful women—and by promoting them when they deserve it. Business can also offer flexible work schedules, day-care facilities, and leaves of absence for child-care when necessary.

Business can help minorities to achieve equal employment opportunities by actively seeking them as employees, by redesigning job requirements so as to rely more on skills and less on traditional backgrounds, by financially supporting minorities who want more education, and by placing minority employees in mainstream jobs where rapid promotion based on ability is customary. Many businesses are also helping minorities by buying some of their supplies from minority-owned small businesses.

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.

Crisis Communication


One of the most visible functions of the PR department is to help management plan for and respond to crisis. A good PR professional looks for potentil problems, constantly scans the business environment, then alerts management to the implications of such problems, and suggests the best course of action.

Disasters of earthquake proportions fall into the category of public relations nightmares created by sudden , violent accidents. Plane crashes, oil spills, chemical leaks, and product defects all belong to this group. The other type of crisis is the sort that builds slowly and occurs because of a company’s conscious, but ill-founded, decisions.

Whn disaster strikes , a defensive posture is generally counterproductive. The best course is to be proactive, admit your mistakes and apologize.

When disaster hits most companies respond, to some degree, through their public relations department, but they often ignore the audience that is likely to be hit hardest—employees. To minimize the impact of any crisis on employees, be sure to communicate honestly, openly, and often, actively encourage employees to share their concerns, and use caution when sharing personal opinions.

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

Fuse Knowledge to Power


Architects are concerned with flows. When designing a building, their paramount considerations are how occupants will move in it and how light and air will circulate around it. Equally important for organizational architects is how information, know-how, decisions, and careers will flow in the structure being shaped.

When the work of the corporation was primarily the organizing of manual labor, markets were local and slow to change, and the knowledge base upon which competitive success depended was stable, a unitary hierarchy of manager atop manager made a lot of sense. The information needed to run the business was limited and could be easily channeled in one upward or downward flow. Workers did the work, and managers did the thinking.

But this is a reality that has disappeared from most industries. Markets are dimensioned globally, rules change faster than some competitors can master them, and brainpower counts for much more than brawn. Most organizations, though, remain keyed to the old realities. Few hierarchies have even kept up with the need to build in change by linking each of their limited number of levels with the time horizons of greatest importance to the company.

A more serious problem, though, is the lack of rethinking about how a business needs to organize its intellectual capital, its knowledge workers. It is ironic, and wasteful, that while “knowledge workers” (technical professionals and other holders of graduate or postgraduate degrees) are making up an increasing proportion of the work force in many industries, the organization structures in which they work remain more the products of Industrial Revolution than of the information age.

Knowledge, especially which can affect the company’s future competitiveness, used to be confined to the research and development lab or to the strategic planning department. Now, as information systems-driven service industries assume a larger share of many economies, knowledge about the capabilities that provide competitive advantage is much more widely dispersed than was ever necessary in traditional manufacturing companies. No single information channel can contain it all. And even traditional product makers are changing. Fewer manufacturing jobs are directly involved in making something; more are concerned with planning what to make, how to make it, and how to keep customers happy after the product has been purchased. The intellectual demands on front-line workers have increased tremendously. The narrowly skilled assembly jobs have been replaced by the more knowledge-intensive positions of the factory automation technician.

Requirements for more intellectual value added have escalated up many organization hierarchies. Networked data bases, expert systems, and almost never-ending flow of new personal computer software have significantly expanded the scope and the nature of the contribution possible from many mid-level employees. This is not an unmitigated blessing, though. It has also seriously polluted the management role in many companies, making many into high-level doers instead of managers, increasing the role’s fragmentation, and making it brittle rather than strong and load-bearing.

This situation will only worsen as economic pressures lead to increased management delayering. Companies with eight to ten tiers of management will find it necessary to organize around four or five. The number of subordinates per manager will have to sharply increase. Middle managers will find themselves with less and less time to master these new white-collar productivity enhancers and to make the intellectual contribution their businesses increasingly need.

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

Defeating Fear with Preparation


Preparation helps defeat fear. Winning prizefighters prepare for a bout by selecting a sparring partner who has a boxing style similar to their opponent.

A football coach helps defeat fear and builds team confidence through exhaustive preparation. Films of the other opposing team in action are reviewed, “special” plays are practiced over and over again, and restrictions are placed on players’ activities all because, in an even contest, confidence is the deciding factor and confidence comes from preparation.

People are afraid of selling more than any other occupation. And again, preparation is a key to overcoming the near paralysis people have in making a sales presentation. People fear looking stupid, hearing the prospect say “No,” being embarrassed, forgetting what they want to say about the product, asking for the order, and not making the sale.

The only way to gain the high level confidence needed to sell successfully is preparation. And preparation is knowledge—knowledge of what you sell, knowledge of how your product will help the prospect or client, and knowledge of the person you’re selling.

Know your product or service. Know exactly what it can do for the prospect. Be so well prepared you can answer any question that comes up. Know construction, desirability and guarantees. Know the limitations, when not to use the product.

Know how your product or service will help your prospect. Your customer is the law of self-interest in action. As a salesman makes a presentation, the customer is asking, “How does this relate to my problem? How would it benefit me?”

The third confidence builder is knowledge of the prospect. You don’t sell to machines, you sell only to people. Just as you feel confident and have no fear when you’re around people you know well, you’ll have confidence around prospects when you know more about their personal interests, personality, personal responsibilities, or responsibilities, and family.

To act confidently in a sales situation, prepare yourself with knowledge of what you sell, how it will benefit he prospect, and who the prospect is. But more than knowledge, practice is required to gain confidence needed in selling. Practice your presentation with people who act the role of a customer. Practice before a mirror, or better yet, film yourself on a video camera. Watch your mannerisms, list to your voice, and observe your expressions.

You’ll destroy fear and build confidence in selling through preparation. In any activity, confidence comes in direct proportion to preparation.

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

Fixed and Variabl Costs


The study of cost behavior in physical distribution is quite similar to that in manufacturing because most of the activities are repetitive in nature. Under such conditions physical measurements such as man-hours, units handled, and orders processed can be used to measure the activity. Changes in the level of cost incurred usually are caused by changes in the level of activity experienced.

The first step in understanding the cost behavior of physical distribution activities is to establish the relationship between the amount of each cost and an appropriate measurement of the level of activity. Variable costs are those costs that change in proportion to changes in volume and fixed costs. Examples of variable costs include the handling charges in a public warehouse and the cost of packing material used in a shipping department. Fixed costs include depreciation, security costs and taxes on company-owned warehouses, and the salary of transportation manager.

Some costs are mixed, that is, they contain both a fixed and a variable component. An example might be a warehouse labor. A basic crew of three may be required to cover the normal range of activity. However, if the volume of activity exceeds a certain amount, overtime or part-time employees may be necessary.

In some cases costs may be fixed over a relevant range but may increase in steps. These costs may be referred to as step variable cost or step fixed costs. The major distinction is the size of the steps. For example, in an order-processing department of twenty people labor may be considered a variable cost without making a serious error. This is because a relatively small percentage change in the number of orders could result in a change in the number of employees. However, in a department of three people the cost should be considered a fixed cost since a large percentage change in the number of orders processed usually would be required in order to eliminate an employee. Other examples of step fixed costs include the costs of management salaries, depreciation, and taxes associated with each warehouse that the company owns and operate.

Effective planning and control require that the total costs be separated into the fixed and variable components.

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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