The Human Context of Management


In addition to understanding the ongoing behavioral processes inherent in their own jobs, managers must understand the basic human element of their work. Organizational behavior offers three major perspectives for understanding this context: people as organizations, people as resources, and people as people.

Above all, organizations are people, and without people there would be no organizations. All organizations differ from each other dramatically in size, purpose, and structure, they have one thing in common: people. Thus, if managers are to understand the organizations in which they work, they must first understand the people who make up the organizations.

As resources, people are one of an organization’s most valuable assets. People create the organization, guide and direct its course, and vitalize and revitalize it. People make its decisions, solve its problems, and answer its questions. People are at the core of many of the possible contributors to this trend. To reverse declining productivity, many organizations have taken steps to boost the contribution from their human resources. Some companies have encouraged management and labor to cooperate better; others have increased employee participation in decision-making and problem-solving.

There is another perspective—people as people. People spend a large part of their lives in organizational settings, mostly as employees. They have a right to expect something in return beyond wages and employee benefits. Employees seek satisfaction, and many want the opportunity to grow and develop and to learn new skills. An understanding of organizational behavior can help managers better appreciate these needs and expectations.

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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Writing Tips


  • When writing consider the recipients. What do they know already? What can you tell them?
  • Outline your memos and letters before beginning to write.
  • When writing reports, summarize key points or conclusions on the first page and document them with more information on subsequent pages.
  • Write like you speak to make your writing as readable as possible.
  • Learn the writing style of your organization and follow it. Don’t use flowery language (many adjectives and verbs) when inappropriate.
  • Have your secretary or assistant edit and proofread your correspondence for sentence structure and grammatical errors.
  • Keep dictionary thesaurus on hand to check spelling and word usage.
  • Use variety of sentence structures—simple, complex, and compound—to add interest to your writing.
  • When writing for a non-ethical audience, have a non-technical person identify jargon. Then either eliminate it or include a glossary defining the terms.
  • Use charts and tables wherever possible to present numerical information.
  • Use “action verbs” to add punch to your message.
  • Eliminate weak words like “very,” “interesting,” “often,” and other bland adjectives or adverbs.
  • Keep paragraphs short. Make sure the content of a paragraph revolves around only one thought—the topic sentence.
  • If you do a large amount of routine correspondence, standardize it as much as possible.
  • If procrastination is a problem, start writing a rough draft early so you have time to reverse it at least once.
  • When allocating blocks of time for writing, set aside periods of one to one-and-a-half hours, rather than trying to do it in segments of 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Develop a flash card system to work in your own common misspellings.
  • Dictate correspondence, memos, and so forth, to save time.
  • Seek immediate and specific feedback on reports you write.
  • Take a second or third look at your memos before sending them.
  • Use a grammar checking software program on your computer to identify errors you frequently make, and use that feedback to focus your efforts to improve your writing.

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.

Reverse Discrimination


Affirmative action programs are necessary to assure continued employment possibilities for minorities and women. Programs to foster the careers of these two groups have grown but while this voluntary action may have  been needed to correct past abuses who at some point is becoming a minority in the workforce? Some males feel that affirmative action plans work against them leading to charges of reverse discrimination.

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 Circular Flow


In a simplified world with only two types of economic agents, individuals and business firms, the relations between them can be pictured. Individuals and firms have dual aspects, and thus transact with one another in two distinct ways. Individuals are in one aspect consumers of goods, while firms are producers of goods. Thus, a real flow of consumption goods occurs from firms to individuals. But the goods must be produced. To permit this there must be a “real” flow of productive services, from the individuals in their second aspect as owners of resources to the firms as employers of resource services.

In a socialist command economy these flows of goods and resources might be directly ordered by a dictator. But in a private enterprise economy the relations are based on exchange and so must be mutual and voluntary. Hence, offsetting the “real” flows are reverse “financial” flows of claims that in a modern economy normally take the form of money payments. The consumers’ financial expenditures on goods become the receipts or revenues of the firms. The exchange of consumption goods between individuals and producing firms in return for financial payments take place in what economists call “the product market.”

The revenues received from sales to consumers provide firms with the wherewithal to buy productive services from resource-owners. This closes the circle; the firms’ payments for productive services become income to the individuals, available once more for spending on consumer goods. Purchase and sale of productive services take place in what economists call “the factor market,” again really a number of distinct markets for the various types of productive services.

Looking within the box representing the firms as economic agents, what takes place there is the process of production, the physical transformation of resources into products. Within the box representing individuals, consumption of the produced goods takes place. Here again the circle is closed by the fact that consumption is necessary to reiterate the main productive resource—labor power—for the next cycle.

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.

 

Commitment to Principles


We are increasingly convinced that there are several principles which tend to lead us to good process management. They are tough and often sacrificed.

Focus: In very competitive situations managers often go to focus; that is, they try to zero in on part of the playing field, part of the market, or part of the technology. Narrowing focus yields greater capability and a shared vision, like the power of a laser. However, in a reverse twist, focus always means we try to solve the customer’s whole problem, at least as much as we can. Ours is not a point solution. For example, product disposal is now getting attention in the design stage, and designers resist the rush to completion mentality of cycle time.

End User Drive: During technical development today, the end user’s problems are the top of every page. Technical development isn’t over until the customer agrees that we have solved the problems we began with.

Productivity: Everyone seems to agree that we must destroy oppressive bureaucracy in the new products operation. Any organization, however, even on a kid’s baseball diamond, needs some bureaucracy, and even ventures teams that have been spun out from their firms need a little. It is a glue, and its policies reduce the time spent on routine decisions.

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.

Re-inventing the Corporation: Bureaucracy Smashers


Sometimes, just a few key steps can start breaking down the barriers to effective communication and action within a company.

The following policies are a list of bureaucracy smashers, simple but effective steps which help replace the industrial “us vs. them” mentality with the “we are all in this together” attitude needed to re-invent the corporation.

  1. Set up a system of reverse reviews. Everyone who is evaluated gets to evaluate the boss, too (assuming there are bosses).
  2. Call everyone by first name.
  3. Try out the rule: Use little paper; keep no files.
  4. Call people associates, partners, managers—or just plain people—instead of employees (or workers).
  5. Decentralize authority absolutely.
  6. Eliminate executive dinning rooms, executive restrooms, special parking spots, and the like.
  7. Insist everybody answer his or her own phone. Preferably type your own letters.
  8. Get people to manage themselves: to set and monitor their own goals, to manage their work load and set their own priorities.
  9. Take a deep breath and throw out the old organization chart.

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

Policy Structures


One of the major purposes of organizations is to relate and coordinate individuals and groups separated by task and space. The authority structure helps accomplish this by defining, at least partially, who can tell whom to do what, and who has the authority to make what kinds of decisions and to take what actions. This authority structure is supplemented with a structure of explicit and implicit policies, procedures, methods, and rules, which channel and direct many decisions and actions.

A policy is a statement of intent that is made to guide others in their decision making without being so specific as to specify decisions. Theoratically, the top executives of any company, but especially the larger ones, necessarily determine policies that help guide the behavior of people within the organization. However, in fact, people at lower levels often have an important hand in fashioning policy. This happens in two ways. First, people at lower levels make recommendations to those at upper levels. Second, people in upper levels sometimes formalize policies to fit behavior patterns that have already emerged at lower levels. In the latter case, policy follows practice.

A frequent characteristic of policy statements is that they are vague enough to permit managers to select among specific decesions, depending upon the managers’ view of the specific conditions surrounding the decision.

In addition to policies, certain procedures and methods are usually designed to facilitate work. For example, there may be eight discrete steps in a particular work process, and a sequence established for each step. Step three might involve notifying two departments that the first two steps are completed. Such a suggested process is called a procedure. It tells people when they should do something. How they do it is the method they use. The method is formally prescribed in some cases and is left to the operant’s discretion in others. Anyone who fails to follow the prescribed procedures and methods is usually open to censure if problems result. Yet much of life in organizations involves evading required procedures and methods, or redesigning them, and again the reasons are usually people-problems rather than errors in the logic of the design of the procedures and methods.

Most organizations have rules and regulations to supplement policies, procedures, and methods. Rules and regulations say what one must do or not do and often specify penalties for infractions. “No one is to punch another’s third card” is an example. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It says “no one,” period.

So there is a sliding scale from guides (policies) to suggestions (procedures) to requirements (rules and regulations). Nearly all organizations include the entire svcale, but different companies may vary widely in their relative emphasis upon various parts of the scale. At the less specific end of the scale, there is more freedom but less certainty, and the reverse is true of the more specific end. Knowing where a particular organization stands on the scale is thus important in understanding how it functions.

Furthermore, there is wide variability between organizational units (eg., research division versus accounting department) in the reliance placed upon or the attention paid to the policy structure.

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