Definition of the Problem


We must first define a problem exactly before we can describe, analyze, and explain it. We define it with the deviation statement, or name of the problem. It is important to state this name precisely because all the work to follow—all the description, analysis, and explanation we will undertake—will be directed at correcting the problem as it has been named.

However simple or complex a problem may seem at the outset, it is always worth a minute or two to ask, “Can the effect of this problem in the deviation statement be explained now?” If it can, we must back up to the point at which we can no longer explain the deviation statement. Vague or generalized deviation statements must be reworded into specific deviation statements that name one object or kind of object, and, and one malfunction or kind of malfunction for which I wish to discover and explain cause.

It is tempting to combine two or more deviations, in a single problem-solving effort or to try bunch a bevy of seemingly related problems into one overall problem. Nearly, everyone has attended meetings during which two or more distinct problems were tied ankle to ankle in a kind of problem-solving sack race. This procedure is almost always inefficient and unproductive.

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.

Measuring Productivity


You are likely to be judged – at least to some extent – by your financial performance. But financial measures such as profitability and return on investment are really indirect measures of the operations, good financial performance comes from good operations. You can measure the operations more directly using measures such as productivity, utilization and efficiency.

Productivity is the most common measure of operations. It shows the amount of output that you create for each unit of resource used. You might, for example, measure the number of units made per employee, sales per square meter, or deliveries per vehicle.

Your competitors are always trying to gain an advantage, and an effective way of doing this is by increasing their productivity. You then have to match their improvement simply to stay in business. So the benefits of higher productivity include:

  • Long-term survival;
  • Lower costs;
  • Less waste of resources;
  • Higher profits, wages, real income, etc;
  • Targets for continually improving operations;
  • Comparisons between operations;
  • Measures of management competence.

These are good reasons for improving productivity. But how can you do it? At the very worst, you simply make people work harder – problem solved. In reality there are four ways of increasing productivity:

  1. Improve effectiveness – with better decisions;
  2. Improve efficiency – with a process that gives more output for the same inputs;
  3. Improve the process – getting higher quality, fewer accidents, or less disruption;
  4. Improve motivation – getting better results from the workforce.

One of the problems with improving productivity is that employees see it as an excuse for sacking them. Productivity is really a measure of improvement performance, and it has very little to do with the old-fashioned idea of getting people to work harder. An enthusiastic person digging a hole with a spade can work very hard, and still be far less productive than a  lazy person with a bulldozer. Typically, 85 percent of productivity is set by the process which is designed by managers and only 15 percent is due to the individual workers.

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.

People as Numbers


Generally, it is accepted that modern human resource planning should have a wider perspective, in tune with the philosophy of HRM, including ‘softer’ issues such as competence, commitment and career development. Modern human resource planning continues to use the ‘hard’ techniques of manpower planning but also includes a new focus on shaping values, beliefs and culture. Anticipating strategy, market conditions and demographic change.

Nevertheless, in line with the tradition of formal, observable and ‘objective’ planning, numerical measurement and forecasting having been favored over quantitative studies on opinion, attitude and motivation. ‘Hard’ data allows managers and planners to sit in their offices and wait for information. ‘No need to to go out and meet the troops, or the customers, to find out how the products get bought … all that just wastes valuable time.’ The growth of information technology and management information systems has made numerical data readily available and possibly further discouraged collection of qualitative information. Numbers give a comforting feeling of unarguable objectivity and allow managers to detach themselves from shop-floor emotions. It is much easier to sack a number than a real human being.

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

Employing Too Many People


This seems obvious; employing too many people to do the work is clearly a waste on money. Unfortunately, there is a natural tendency for organiations to expand – largely because it is easy to employ an extra person, but difficult to sack one.  This growth is particularly obvious at the top.

Most organizations are overstaffed. When someone is overworked they can resign, share the work with a colleague, or demand another two assistants.

When there is not enough work to keep everyone occupied, there is plenty of time to worry, gossip and play politics. This by itself can be disruptive, but there are more problems when you try to trim the costs. Your best people will read the signs and start looking around for another job; the less good will keep their heads down and avoid any controversy, risks or mistakes. No one performs at their best when they spend their time applying for other jobs or trying to look invisible.

Remember that those who are in danger of losing their jobs deserve the longest warning that you can give. It isn’t their fault that the organization is having problems, and they have to plan for a difficult and uncertain future. Many managers delay these decisions, giving different reasons why they shouldn’t say anything until the last possible moment. This leaves everyone worried. It is far better to sort things out early, so that those remaining can concentrate on their work, and those leaving can help for the future.

Overstaffing has more widespread effects than simply wasting money, and you should avoid it by controlling recruitment and promotions.

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