The Newness


One critical property of the knowledge that underpins an activity is how new it is to the function or organization performing the activity. If it is very different from existing knowledge, it is said to be radical or competence destroying. If it builds on existing knowledge, it is said to be incremental or competence enhancing. The newer the knowledge, the more difficult it is for firms to perform the activities.

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.

Process Engineering


Although continuous improvement methods are positive starts in many of our organizations, they generally focus on incremental change. Such action—a constant and permanent search to make things better—is intuitively appealing. Many organizations, however, operate in an environment of rapid and dynamic change. As the elements around them change so quickly, a continuous improvement process may keep them behind the times.

The problem with a focus on continuous improvements is that it may provide a false sense of security. It may make organizational members feel as if they are actively doing something positive, which is somewhat true. Unfortunately, ongoing incremental change may prevent a company from facing up to the possibility that what the organization may really need radical or quantum change, referred to as work process engineering. Continuous change may also make employees feel as if they are taking progressive action while, at the same time, avoiding having to implement quantum changes that will threaten certain aspects of organizational life. The incremental approach of continuous improvement, then, may be today’s version of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is imperative in today’s business environment that all organizational members consider the challenge that work process engineering may have for their organizational processes. This is because work process engineering can lead to “major gains in cost, service, or time,” as well as an organization in preparing to meet the challenges technology changes foster.

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.

 

Fundamental Change


There is an evident and strong desire for corporate transformation. With all the smoke there has to be some fire. Against the background of multiple and profound changes and challenges in the business environment, management accepts that incremental is no longer enough.

How fundamental the transformation should be will depend upon the situation and circumstances of the individual company. There are easier ways of getting directorial and managerial kicks.

Circumstances might allow a gradual transition and incremental adjustment. Managers need to understand the profound nature of the distinction between evolutionary and revolutionary change, and the requirements for beginning about a revolution in thought. They must learn from radicals rather than administrators.

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 Right Thing for your Company


Make sure that the outcomes you define for your people are in line with your company’s current strategy. With the dizzying pace of change in today’s business world, it is sometimes hard for managers to keep track. The key distinction is between mission and strategy. A company’s mission should remain constant, providing meaning and focus for generations of employees. A company’s strategy is simply the most effective way to execute that mission. It should change according to the demands of the contemporary business climate.

Although the constant reassessment of strategy is vital to the health of the company, it does place managers in a rather difficult position. They are the intermediaries, charged with explaining the new strategy to the employees and then translating it into clearly defined performance outcomes.

Often this can be as simple as telling your salespeople that with the new company strategy focused on growing market share rather than profit, each salesperson will now be encouraged to focus on the outcome, ‘sales volume,’ rather than the outcome ‘profit margin per sale.’

However, sometimes the changes in strategy are more radical and the pressures on managers to refocus employees on different outcomes are more acute. For example, the most effective strategy for many high-tech companies used to be innovation. Hence the large R&D budgets, the hordes of dishelved but creative software designers, and the unpredictable, slightly unfocused work environments. For the major players who dominate the marketplace, critical mass—getting your product to be accepted as the standard—is now more important than innovation. Innovation can be brought from the smaller boutique houses. Thus these larger companies need to change the way they operate to ensure that virtually everyone’s efforts are focused on spreading the new language/platform/product into the marketplace. This means that managers in these companies will have to hustle to redefine the desired outcomes and find new definitions of success. Number of users, for example, may now be more important than revenue per user.

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.

 

Mergers and Acquisitions


Regardless of what form a business takes—be it a sole proprietorship, partnership, or a corporation—the chances are reasonably good that its form will evolve over time. Companies of all sizes and types achieve a variety of objectives by merging, dividing, and restructuring. The terms most often used to describe all of this activity are mergers, acquisitions, and leveraged buyouts. The difference between a merger and an acquisition is fairly technical, having to do with how the financial transaction is structured. Basically, in a merger, two or more companies combine to create a new company by pooling their interests. In an acquisition, one company buys another company (or parts of another company) and emerges as the controlling corporation. The flip side of an acquisition is a divestiture, in which one company sells a portion of its business to another company. In leveraged buyouts one or more individuals purchase the company (or a division of the company) with borrowed funds, using the assets of the company they’re buying to secure (or guarantee repayment of) the loan. The loans are then repaid out of the company’s earnings, through the sale of assets, or with stock. Leveraged buyouts do not always work.

Mergers and acquisitions represent relatively radical ways in which companies are combined. On a more modest scale, businesses often join forces in alliances to accomplish specific purpose. In a joint venture, two or more companies combine forces to work on a project. The joint venture may be dissolved fairly quickly if the project is limited in scope, or it may endure for many years.

A consortium is similar to a joint venture, but it involves the combined efforts of several companies. Cooperatives also serve as a vehicle for joint activities. In a cooperative, a group of people or small companies with common goals work collectively to obtain greater bargaining power and to benefit from economies of scale. Like large companies, these cooperatives can buy and sell things in quantity; but instead of distributing a share of the profits to stockholders, cooperatives divide all profits among their members.

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.

Organizational Capabilities


If an innovation is radical in the organizational sense, incumbents have two problems in exploiting it. In the first place, since the change is competence destroying, they do not have the capabilities to exploit it. In the second place, and perhaps more important, the firm’s existing capabilities may not only be useless, they may actually be a handicap to the introduction and development of the innovation. Firms find it difficult to break their habits, the routines and procedures they had put in place to exploit the old technology. They must unlearn the old ways of doing things. New entrants, on the other hand, do not have the burden of the old technology and can go on unencumbered to build capabilities for the innovation and exploit it.

If, on the other hand, the innovation is incremental, incumbents tend to dominate since the required knowledge builds on what they already have, but new entrants would have to build it from scratch.

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.

Drive


A person’s drive is not changeable. What drives him is decided by his mental filter, by the relative strength or weakness of the highways in his mind. His drives are, in fact, his striving talents.

Take the striving talent of competitiveness as an example. Some people have a four-lane highway for competition. Show them scores and they will instinctively try to use these scores to compare their performance with that of their peers. They love scores, because what you can measure you can compare, and if you can compare, you can compete.

However, people with a wasteland for competition will see the same scores and not feel any jolt of energy at all. Putting themselves on a level playing field, putting their best efforts against their peers, and winning means nothing to them. They rationalize their behavior by opining, “I don’t like competition; I prefer win-win scenarios,” or the classic, “I prefer to compete with myself.” But these comments are just signs that their filter is, understandably, trying to describe itself in the most positive light.

The truth is that they are not competitive. There is nothing good or bad about this. It is simply who they are. And there is not much that either they or you, their manager, can do about it.

Similarly some people have a four-lane highway for constant achievement, a striving talent we call achiever. They may not have to win, but they do feel a burning need to achieve something tangible every single day. And these kind of people mean, “every single day.” For them every day—workday, weekend, vacation—everyday starts at zero. They have to rack up some numbers by the end of the day in order to feel good about themselves. This burning flame may dwindle as evening comes, but the next morning it rekindles itself, spurring its host to look for new items to cross off his list. These people are the fabled “self-starters.”

Not all roles require employees to possess this striving talent of achiever. Nurses, for example, do not have to generate all of their drive from within. Instead they have to respond caringly and efficiently to the urgent needs that face them everyday—for nurses the altruistic striving talent mission is much more important than achiever. But if you manage roles that do require achiever—like an insurance agent, a pharmaceutical salesperson, or any role where the person must initiate rather than respond—then remember; You had better select for it. Because if a person does not feel this burning fire, you cannot light it for him.

The same applies to all striving talents: the need to be of service, the need to be on stage, the need to be seen as competent, the need to help others grow. All of these drives are talents, and therefore they have the same characteristics as other talents. Namely, they are part of each person’s mental filter. They are unique and enduring.

A manager can never breathe motivational life into someone else. All she can do is try to identify each employee’s striving four-lane highways and then, as far as is possible, cultivte them.

When describing human behavior, stick to the clarity of skills, knowledge, and talents. Tread carefully when using habits or competencies—they lump too much together rather haphazardly. Likewise, if you feel a need to use attitude or drive, be cautious. Remember that a person’s drive and his prevailing attitudes are talents, and as such, they are very hard to change. When you hear yourself berating the person to “get a better attitude,” watch out. You might be asking him to tackle the impossible.

None of this implies that a person cannot change. Everyone can change. Everyone can learn. Everyone can get a little better. The language of skills, knowledge, and talents simply helps a manager identify where radical change is possible and where it is not.

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

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