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

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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

Direct and Indirect Costs


In manufacturing, “direct costs” refer to costs that are readily traceable to products—for example, direct material and direct labor. The term is also used to identify costs that are traced as incurred to specific functions, to distinguish them from allocated or transferred costs. In distribution the classification of costs as direct or indirect depends on the segment. The more general the segment (sales division in sales territory), the greater the portion of costs directly traceable to it, the more specific the segment (products, customers), the greater the proportion of indirect costs. Direct costs are those costs that can be traced to a business segment. If that segment were eliminated, the costs no longer would be incurred.

Indirect costs, costs such as general administrative expenses, are often allocated  to segments, but this process is arbitrary at best and should be avoided.

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

Increasing Knowledge Intensity


Knowledge (information, intelligence, and expertise) is the basis of technology and application. In the 21st Century competitive landscape, knowledge is a critical organizational resource  and is increasingly a valuable source of competitive advantage. Because of this, many companies now strive to transmute the accumulated knowledge of individual employees into a corporate asset. Some argue that the value of intangible assets, including knowledge, is growing as a proportion of total shareholder value. The probability of achieving strategic competitiveness in the 21st Century competitive landscape is enhanced for the firm that realizes that its survival depends on the ability to capture intelligence, transform it into usable knowledge, and diffuse it rapidly throughout the company. Firms that accept this challenge shift their focus from merely obtaining the information to exploiting the information to gain a competitive advantage over rival firms.

 

Conditions in the 21st Century competitive landscape shows that firms must be able to adapt quickly to achieve strategic competitiveness and earn above average returns. The term strategic flexibility describes a firm’s ability to do this. Strategic flexibility is a set of capabilities firms use to respond to various demands and opportunities that are a part of dynamic and uncertain competitive environments. Firms should develop strategic flexibility in all areas of their operations. Such capabilities in terms of manufacturing allow firms to “switch gears—form, for example, rapid product development to low cost—relatively quickly and with minimum resources.

 

To achieve strategic flexibility, many firms have to develop organizational slack. Slack resources allow the firm some flexibility to respond to environmental changes. When the changes required are large, firms may have to undergo strategic reorientations. Such reorientations can drastically change a firm’s competitive strategy. Strategic reorientations are often the result of a firm’s poor performance. For example, when a firm earns negative returns, its stakeholders are likely to place pressure on the top executives to make major changes. To be strategically flexible on a continuing basis, a firm has to develop the capability to learn. The learning continuously provides the firm with new and current sets of skills. This allows the firm to adapt to its environment as it encounters changes.

 

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

Knowledge about Markets


Within the vast, diverse, and changing market no product is consumed at the same rate everywhere. Therefore, every national advertiser—the one whose product is distributed throughout the country as well as the one whose product is confined to particular regions—must view the market as an aggregate of many individual market areas, each of which is different from the next. Some markets are fertile and can be cultivated profitably. Others are barren and should not be cultivated at all.

The purpose of market analysis is to locate the fertile markets and estimate their sales potential. With this information the advertiser can then distribute effort among various market areas in proportion to their relative sales potentially and thereby maximizes the return on advertising investment.

In analyzing markets and market potentials, great dependence is placed on statistical data collected by the government. It is important that such data be precisely defined so that users will know what they mean and can thus make reliable comparisons when data are applied to different markets.

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

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