Defining Issues & Priorities


Ensure that the key issues facing business have been realistically defined in light of the current and rapidly changing business environment. There is nothing new about this requirement, but the fact is that very few management teams actually take the time and apply the discipline necessary to objectively define and prioritize the key issues that can make or break their business. The issues of inferior quality, higher cost products, lower productivity, and nonresponsive service plague manufacturers for the better part of the recent past. Many companies in industries such as steel, automotive, machine tool, textile, farm and construction equipment suffer badly as a result. Only few companies address these issues in effective ways. Most are unable to clearly identify the key issues, set priorities, and develop the necessary business plans to overcome the underlying problems.

While the specific issues vary for different companies and industries, the management mindset should not vary. To deal effectively with an increasingly turbulent environment, priorities must be set so the business can survive unexpected blows, adapt to sudden dropping changes, and then capitalize on smaller windows of opportunity that develop and close much more quickly than they have in the past.

Many progressive managers kick off their planning process with a session aimed specifically at getting agreement on key issues and priorities. Accepting these priorities require a shift in the way most managers think and act, such as:

  • Liquidity becomes a more important objective, often more important than reported earnings. It provides the flexibility to deal more effectively with unexpected events than is possible when everything is tied up in fixed and slow moving assets.
  • Productivity gains per dollar of capital and per employee must be achieved annually. These reductions must exceed inflation and achieve demonstrably lower costs.
  • Innovation must never stop. Demonstrable product and process improvements must be achieved year after year.
  • All cycle and response times must be continuously reduced.
  • A “frightened” sense of urgency must be the way of life in all parts of the 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 visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Closing the Customer Gap


The gaps model says that a service marketer must first close the customer gap between customer perceptions and expectations. To do so, the provider must close the four provider gaps, or discrepancies within the organization that inhibit delivery of quality service. The gaps model focuses on strategies and processes that firms can employ to drive service excellence.

Customer perceptions are subjective assessment of actual service experiences. Customer expectations are the standards or reference points for performance against which service experiences are compared and are often formulated in terms of what a customer believes will or should happen.

The sources of customer expectations consist of marketer-controlled factor (such as pricing, advertising, and sales promises) as well as factors that the marketer has limited ability to affect (innate personal needs, word-of-mouth communications, and competitive offerings). In a perfect world, expectations and perceptions would be identical: customers would perceive that they receive what they thought they would and should. In practice these concepts are often separated by some distance. Broadly, it is the goal of service marketing to bridge this distance.

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.

Soft Customer Standards


Not all customer priorities can be counted, timed, or observed through audits. As Einstein once said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.” Understanding and knowing the customer is not a customer priority that a standard that counts, times, or observes employees can adequately capture. In contrast to hard measures, soft measures are those that must be documented using perceptual measures. We call the second category of customer-defined standards soft standards and measures because they are opinion-based measures that cannot be observed and must be collected by talking to customers, employees, or others. Soft standards provide direction, guidance, and feedback to employees in ways to achieve customer satisfaction and can be quantified by measuring customer perceptions and beliefs. These are especially important for person-to-person interactions such as the selling process and the delivery process for professional services.

Retail Trends & Strategies


  • Better market positioning: This involves more careful identification of market segments and providing service superior to that of competition.
  • Market intensification: This involves clustering more stores in the same metropolitan area and contiguous markets.
  • Secondary markets: Expansion will be increasingly focused on secondary markets  of under 100,000 population because there may be less competition from larger retailers, and costs, such as wages, may be lower.
  • Differences in store size: Retailers will have a more flexible portfolio of different sized stores depending on the size of the community and existing retail competition. More use of second-hand space will occur because this can result in savings of 30 percent or more in rent.
  • Productivity increases: The application of central checkout, self-selection, and low gross margins to areas of trade where these techniques have not been used before will occur. Look now at toy supermarkets, home-decorating centers, and self-service shoe stores.
  • Fewer product options: Product lines will increasingly be consolidated, and new product development will be cut back.
  • Service growth: Services retailing will continue to grow as a percentage of total retail sales. Services already represent about 50 percent of the gross national product.
  • More mergers: Increasingly, smaller and weaker firms will be absorbed as more retail outlets struggle to survive.

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.

Communities of Practice


One of the most successful uses of the Internet has been the emergence of informal knowledge communities or a community of interest. It is an environment usually outside of conventional organizational structures, where people can converse with each other about the common problems they face in their workplace or in their professional life, a common passion for some subject or a common mission. Most communities of practice are contained within a single organization but sometimes they cross institutional boundaries.

A community of practice does not necessarily have to be transacted solely on the Internet and in fact the most successful ones almost always have a face-to-face meeting component to them. As good a tool as the Internet is, it can never replace the intimacy and fullness of communication of face-to-face meetings of individuals. The importance of the internet to a community of practice js that it provides a link beyond the times when people can physically meet and hence sustains the group. It also permits a community of practice to develop among people who are not co-located.

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.

Business Financial Strategy


Financial strategy examines the financial implications of corporate and business-level strategic options and identifies the best financial course of action. It can also provide competitive advantage through a lower cost of funds and a flexible ability to raise capital to support a business strategy. Financial strategy usually attempts to maximize the financial value of the firm.

The trade-off between advancing the desired debt-to-equity ratio and relying on internal long-term financing via cash flow is a key issue in financial strategy. Many small and medium-sized companies try to avoid all external sources of funds in order to avoid outside entanglements and to keep control of the company within the family. Many believe that only by financing through long-term debt can a corporation use financial leverage to boost earnings per share, thus raising stock price and the overall value of the company. Higher debt levels not only deter takeover by other firms (by making the company less attractive), but also leads to improved productivity and improved cash flows by forcing management to focus on core businesses.

A very popular financial strategy is the leveraged buy out—a company is acquired in a transaction financed largely by debt—usually obtained from a third party, such as an insurance company or an investment banker. Ultimately the debt is paid with money generated from the acquired company’s operations or by sales of its assets. The acquired company, in effect, pays for its own acquisition. Management of the leveraged buy out is then under tremendous pressure to keep the highly leveraged company profitable. Unfortunately the huge amount of debt on the acquired company’s books may actually cause its eventual decline by focusing management’s attention on short-term matters.

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.

HR Strategy


Human resource strategies define how a company will manage its people toward the achievement of business objectives—setting priorities for action. Like any strategy, a human resource strategy is a directional plan of action for managing change. It provides a business perspective of actions necessary to gain and sustain competitive advantage through the management of human resources—a focus on priorities in managing people in a changing environment.

Through human resource strategy, managers and human resource staff jointly define and resolve people-related business issues. The planning process adds value by helping managers identify the issues most critical to the organization’s competitiveness and ultimately to its success. It helps management set priorities and define a vision of how it intends to manage its people.

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.

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