Focusing Organization


This focus begins when someone at top identifies a set of concerns that require correction. These concerns are of significant importance to the organization, rather than passing operational concerns. They are persistent, undesirable situations that have grown over time and have never been adequately addressed. It is clear that a major effort is required to solve them and that new skill and approaches have to be developed if the effort is to be successful.

 The entire project is planned as a taskforce attack on identified situations; objectives—analysis and correction of the target situations, objectives are defined. This planning cannot be delegated. It is done by top management, since responsibility for the project must reside with those who initiate it. By actively directing the project, top management makes its support of the ideas evident to everyone. By participating in the project throughout its life, top management returns control and ensures success.

 The management works out a comprehensive plan and schedule. The population of individuals who can contribute in solving the target situations is identified by name and position. Workshops are scheduled. It is in the workshops that the participants learn. They apply their skills to analysis of their assigned concerns.

 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.

From Financial Capital to Human Capital


The new corporation differs from the old in both goals and basic assumptions. In the industrial era, when the strategic resource was capital, the goal of the corporation could only have been profits. In the information era, however, the strategic resource is information, knowledge, creativity. There is only one way a corporation can gain access to these valuable commodities—that is, through the people in whom these resources reside.

So the basic assumption of a re-invented company is that people—human capital—are its most important resource. What used to be one of the radicals’ favorite slogans, “People before Profits,” is finding its way into the boardroom and being transformed into a more businesslike but equally humanistic “People and Profits.”

In an information age society, human resources are any organization’s competitive edge.

One expression of the importance of human capital is the new corporate preoccupation with health and fitness. Corporations are treating their human assets with new concern, encouraging their people to stop smoking, lose weight, exercise, and learn to manage stress. What might have been considered an intrusion into one’s personal life in the past is fair game when people are a company’s strategic resource.

The new re-invernted corporations stress inordinate regard for the two most important types of people in an enterprise: employees and customers.

They have discovered that by being both pro-people and pro-profits, a company can earn more than it it had targeted profits as its only goal.

It is not a question of being nice to people. It is simply a recognition that human beings will make or break a company.

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

The Androgynous Manager


Clearly, the corporate world is still a man’s world. Under this male-bastion model, corporations, for a number of reasons, are losing out as much as women. Every corporation wants the most competent people woking on their side. But companies which permit themselves the luxury of unconsciously sexist attitudes lose out on a wealth of talent which resides equally in men and women. That is simply bad for business.

 When women and men are segregated in the workplace, formulating stereotype of each other’s behavior, they can become blind to genuine abilities each possesses. Women, for example, are rarely considered great-deal-makers.

 But women are actually more flexible, less deceptive, more emphatic, and more likely to reach agreement, while men are just the opposite. When a man visualizes a negotiating situation, he sees it as a one-shot deal to win or lose, like a sport or a game. A woman sees it as part of a long-term relationship. Since most business situations involve long-term relationships, the female approach is more productive.

 But in the information society, as the manager’s role shifts to that of the teacher, mentor, and nurturer of human potential, there is even more reason for corporations to take advantage of women’s managerial abilities, because these people-oriented traits are the ones women are socialized to possess.

 The problem is that most women feel that they must be more like men if they are too succeed in a male-dominated corporate environment and that is a mistake both for women and for companies.

 The appropriate style for the manager of the 80s was an androgynous blend, one that combined the best of traditional male and female traits.

 Men and women should learn from one another without abandoning successful traits they already possess. Men can learn to be more collaborative and intuitive, yet remain result-oriented. Women need not give up being nurturing in order to learn to be comfortable with power and conflict. Women can transform the workplace by expressing, not by giving up their personal values.

 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

Knowledge Engineering


In the traditional approach to systems design, a system analyst, together with the ultimate end-users, or clients, for the project, will complete a functional specification of the system. At that point, the project is essentially in the hands of professional project management and programming staff, because that group possesses the knowledge and skill required to deliver the agreed upon features and functions. In the development of knowledge systems, this is simply not the case. Following the specification of function, a new problem arises. This is because it is not an algorithm that is being developed but knowledge that is being encoded for machine use.

 

The immediate problem is that traditional applications developers do not have sufficient knowledge of the applications area to complete the project from the starting point of a functional specification. This information generally exists in a variety of forms, depending on the application area. In some cases an individual or group of individuals may uniquely possess the relevant knowledge. In other cases, the knowledge may exist in the form of published materials like manuals or textbooks. In still other cases, the knowledge does not presently exist at all, and must be created and developed along with the system itself. This is an extremely difficult circumstance. Further compounding this problem is a critical factor: Regardless of the form in which the knowledge currently exists, it is not in a form that is ready for use by a knowledge system. Someone must decide what knowledge is relevant and desirable for inclusion, acquire the knowledge, and represent it in a form suitable for a knowledge system to apply. In all but trivial applications the task of representing the knowledge requires not only coding individual “chunks” of knowledge, but also organizing and structuring these individual components.

 

Historically, owing to the remoteness and enigmatic quality of artificial intelligence technologies, the person doing the actual systems development and the “expert,” or source of knowledge, were not the same. The availability of tools, in place of enigmatic technologies, has had an impact on reducing this problem. Even if one can imagine the case in which the “expert” whose knowledge is to be modeled is also an “expert” with the use of artificial intelligence development tools, there still remains a sizable problem.

 

In case where knowledge resides with some practitioner or expert, it does not exist explicitly as a series of IF …THEN rules, ready to be encoded. Most practitioners and experts find it difficult to explain explicitly what they are doing while solving problems. They are not cognizant of the underlying rules they are applying. Their expertise has been developed from numerous experiences and involves highly developed pattern recognition skills and heuristics.

 

In the case where the knowledge to be included is contained in text material like manuals, regulations, procedures, and the like, the information is still not in a form ready for inclusion in an expert system. It must be remembered that one of the most often cited advantages of expert systems is that they make explicit the knowledge that is most often implicit and unavailable for review, evaluation, dissemination, and modification. The task of making knowledge both explicit and available for systems application is that of knowledge engineering. Most literature on the development and application of knowledge systems has identified the need for individuals skilled in knowledge engineering as a critical factor to widespread use of technology.

 

Knowledge engineering involves acquiring, representing, and coding knowledge. The representation and coding aspects of systems development have been greatly impacted by these newly available tools. The speed with which prototyping can be accomplished has also helped reduce some of the difficulty in acquiring or refining knowledge. The knowledge engineer now finds it much less costly in time and effort to represent, code, and test early approaches to systems development, providing a more efficient feedback loop. This feedback loop is critical in the development of knowledge systems. The end-user/client for the project is, by nature, going to be much more involved in the systems design process. The “programmer” often is incapable of deciding if the system is behaving properly, owing to a lack of fundamental knowledge about the application area. This is simply not as strong a factor, where the programmer is capable of evaluating the accuracy and efficiency of algorithms. When the product is actionable knowledge rather than algorithms, the ability to evaluate project progress shifts to the end-user/client. This creates the increased emphasis on the feedback loop.

 

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