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.

Productivity—the Japanese Way


Economists are forever telling us that we need to increase productivity in order to improve our standard of living. Productivity is one of those concepts that are so loaded with meaning and implications that is very difficult to define, much less explain. Not surprisingly then, improving “it” is one of the most difficult tasks facing business. More to the point, the time for improvement is quickly running out. Industrial performance is being outstripped at a frightening pace by the Japanese. In fact, it has reached the point where their productivity performance is so superior that they can literally pick any product and any market and quickly come to dominate it.

The idea that Japanese are uniquely gifted in only a few related areas has been debunked by their proven successes in industries as diverse as automobiles and semi-conductors. As well, the facile suggestion that the Japanese are somehow culturally inclined to be productive doesn’t wash. Japanese managers have taken over factories in Europe and the US and greatly improved productivity records. Productivity has also been high in their North American plants.

If corporate managers believe that their workers can be as competitive as anyone else in the world, and technically, there’s no valid reason why they can’t be, then they must find better ways to help their employees realize their potential. In that sense, study of Japanese methods is a jumping-off point that can lead to adaptations that will produce unique ways of improving productivity.

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.

Profits from Competences


A firm’s ability to profit from its competences is a function of how core the competences are, and the extent to which competitors can quickly acquire such competences. The profits come from the low cost or differentiated products that the firm can make as a result of having the inimitable core competences. If a competence is non-core and inimitability is high, then one may not be able to make profits from it, all else being equal. If it is non-core but inimitable, the firm may be able to make some negligible profits, from it. If however the competence is core but easily imitated, the firm can make some profits, but these will only be temporary as competitors will have time to imitate. If the acceptance is core and inimitable, then the firm can make long-term 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 visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Aging Crisis


Not a company exists whose management doesn’t say, at least for public consumption, that it wants an organization flexible enough to adjust quickly to changing market conditions, lean enough to beat any competitor’s price, innovative enough to keep its products and services technologically fresh, and dedicated enough to deliver maximum quality and consumer service.

So, if managements want companies that are lean, nimble, flexible, responsive, competitive, innovative, efficient, customer-focused, and profitable, why are so many. Companies are bloated, clumsy, rigid, sluggish, non-competitive, uncreative, inefficient, disdainful of customer needs, and losing money. The answers lie in how these companies do their work and why they do it that way.

Corporations do not perform badly because workers are lazy and managements are inept. Just the same, the record of industrial and technological accomplishment over the past century is proof enough that managements are not inept and workers do work.

Inflexibility, unresponsiveness, the absence of customer focus, an obsession with activity rather than result, bureaucratic paralysis, lack of innovation, high overhead—these are the legacies of industrial leadership. These characteristics are not new; they have not suddenly appeared. They have been present all along. If costs are high they can be passed on to customers. If customers are dissatisfied, they have nowhere else to turn. If new products are slow in coming, customers will wait. The important managerial job is to manage growth, and the rest doesn’t matter. Now that growth has flattened out, the rest matters a great deal.

The business problem is that in 21st century with companies designed during the nineteenth century to work well in the twentieth—we need something different.

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.

Competitive Marketing Theories


Competitive market theories are derived from the neo-classical economic concepts of rational choice and maximization of utility. The assumption is that individuals choose jobs which offer them maximum benefits. The utility or value of these benefits – money, vacation time, pension entitlement and so on – vary for different individuals according to their personal preferences. People move from one organization to another if improved benefits are available. At the same time, employer organizations attempt to get the most from their employees for the lowest possible cost.

The outcome of this process is a dynamic and shifting equilibrium in which both employees and organizations compete to maximize benefits for themselves. Within a specific region or industry there is a balance between supply and demand for human resources. Pay and conditions for employees are determined by the relative scarcity or abundance of skills and abilities in the employment market. Competitive forces push wages up when demand for products – and hence employees – increases, and downwards when the economy is in recession. In the latter case a market clearing wage is eventually arrived at which is sufficiently low to encourage employers to increase recruitment and eliminate unemployment. This discourse reinforces the view that employees are objects to be traded like any other commodities in the market – human resources in the hardest possible sense. Supposedly, they offer themselves – their skills and human qualities – for sale to the highest bidders. Within this mindset they could just as well be vegetables on a market stall.

Competition theories assume that job-seekers have perfect knowledge of available jobs and benefits. Job-searching is an expensive and time consuming business. The unemployed do not have money and those in work do not have time. The result is that few people conduct the extensive searches required to find jobs which meet their preferences perfectly. In practice, most individuals settle for employment which is quickly obtained and which exceeds the reserve minimum wage they have in mind. There is a considerable element of luck involved. Moreover, the job-seeker does not make the choice: in most cases the decision is in the hands of employer.

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.

Financing Alternatives


By the time your company reaches its first stage of development, it has probably consumed most, if not all, of its original seed capital. Although business may be looking up, sales are not generating enough free cash to buy the inventory needed for further growth. And, of course, the amount of cash you have taken out of the business for personal living expenses has probably been negligible.

Except in very rare circumstances, a new business needs about three years of steady growth before it generates free cash in sufficient amounts to survive. Working capital to keep the business growing must come from outside the company. Financing must be obtained from banks, other leading institutions, or investors, or the company will stagnate and quickly die.

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.

Interacting with People


Direct open communication with others fosters trust, enhances information flow, and builds stronger relationships. Use following guidelines to increase such communication:

  • Let people know in a timely way about information that affects them. Respond as quickly as possible to any questions they may have.
  • Be aware of the messages you send non-verbally. Communicate a positive, open message to people by facing them and making eye contact (or using other culturally appropriate gestures when in other countries or cultures).
  • To help your employees and others develop their skills, convey positive and constructive feedback. Positive feedback lets people know what they are doing correctly and the behavior you appreciate. Constructive feedback informs people of their ineffective behavior and gives them an opportunity to compensate for or improve the behavior.
  • If conflicting or mixed messages come up in conversation, confront the discrepancy and work with the other person to clarify the misunderstanding.
  • When you receive vague messages, define the issues in concrete terms so that all parties are clear about what is being said.
  • When you need to get a point across in a direct, nonaggressive, fashion, simply say what you think and feel without putting the other person down.

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.

Flexibility


Flexibility means adapting to changing market demands. Small businesses usually have only one layer of management—the owners. Decisions therefore can be made and carried out quickly. In large firms, decisions about even minute matters can take weeks because they must pass through two or more levels of management before action is authorized.

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.

The Concept of Service


If we open a new business, the key issue is how long we are planning. If all we want to do is make a quick buck and move on, there is absolutely no point spending a single penny we don’t absolutely need to. But that is not the route to creating an amazingly successful organization.

The only approach for an organization to take if it wants to become amazingly successful is to become highly effective and highly focused. And that doesn’t pay dividends overnight.

But no single working culture is right for every situation. Why should anyone spend money to create a future that they do not expect to be part of?

Why invest in intangible assets that are hard to value on the balance sheet such as staff, improving team moral, developing customer focus and lifting competence levels, if you expect to be moving on soon?

A working culture centered around the concept of service generally and customer service specifically is the most likely to deliver long-term amazing success.

An organization that wants to adopt a service-based working culture must however be ready for the long haul. It must have both the patience and the resources to get through the early stages in a market where market dominance and being the largest are critical whatever the future price?

Some organizations are better off starting with one working culture and then migrating to another when scale and success allow or demand it.

Planning to evolve or change our working culture is fine as an idea when those in charge are sufficiently switched on to the challenges of changing an organization’s culture: to act at the appropriate time and effectively instigate a culture shift in line with new market conditions.

Let’s not forget that the larger an organization is, the more careful it must be in choosing its working culture in the first instance. Larger organizations are always going to be harder to change; they are clumsy and less fleet of foot than their smaller counterparts. Larger organizations must change their working culture less often and less dramatically, so must put more time and effort into avoiding problems in the first place.

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.

Push vs. Pull in Supply Chain


When designing pieces of the supply chain, managers must determine whether these pieces are part of the push or pull in the chain. Push systems generally require information in the form of elaborate material requirement planning systems to take the master production schedule and roll it back, creating schedules for suppliers with part types, quantities, and delivery dates. Pull systems require information on actual demand to be transmitted extremely quickly throughout the entire chain so that production and distribution of parts and products may accurately reflect the real 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.

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