Learn the Language


If you are going to spend a year or more in a country—definitely, absolutely, do your utmost to learn the language. It will make a tremendous difference to your state of mind. Ability to understand the local language seems to play a major role in adjustment to culture shock and personal success in a foreign world.

It is not clear why speaking the language makes such a big difference, but it does. Obviously it makes getting around a lot easier. In hundreds of moments of struggling to get something done, from shopping to household repairs to getting directions, just knowing some of the language removes huge portions of aggravation and helps you gain a sense of safety and self-assurance. When people around you are babbling away in a foreign language, you become vaguely insecure and feel isolated. Knowing the language gives you a sense of mastery in situations where you may feel vulnerable.

The more process of learning the language gets you more in tune with the culture, and breaks the ice, putting you in the right frame of mind to adjust. In some places, speaking a second language is important to enhance your image as a well-bred, educated person—you may be somewhat better off if the language you learn is not the language spoken in the country.

The frequent traveler should think about learning languages too, of course, depending on the amount of travel and bilingualism of the business community. Speaking a language fluently can permit you to attain levels of relationship and business advantage unattainably by someone who doesn’t.

Fluency in the language will allow the traveler into otherwise exclusive realms of local business. The process of negotiation often depends on behind-the-scenes information flow.

Learning the language is no substitute for learning the culture and appropriate behavior. People who are fluent in a language but not sensitive to the culture can make worse mistakes, perhaps because the local experts more of them. And there are dangers in speaking a language if you are not competent in it. Not knowing the nuances of words or being careless with intonations, you might say things you don’t mean. In most languages, some common words have extremely vulgar meanings if pronounced incorrectly. Or you may hear unintended meanings.

If you don’t speak the language well, it is best to reveal that you have made the effort to learn—but then rely on English or an interpreter. Experts advise that is generally best to speak the language for socializing and daily activities, but not when transacting business. As a rule of thumb, if you are not fluent and your foreign counterpart does not speak fluent English, always transact business with an interpreter. Traders who meet frequently with foreigners say that while English is the business language around the world, buyers are far more comfortable talking in their native language, and even if they can speak English, it is often better to have an interpreter. They don’t have to struggle so hard, and it puts them at ease.

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.

Principals for Defining Privacy Policy


Companies wishing to enact an internal privacy policy or code should consider as a starting point the three concepts that help define information privacy: data collection, data accuracy, and data confidentiality.

Data Collection: the following principles should be adhered to:

  • Data should be collected on individuals only to accomplish a legitimate business objective.
  • Data should be adequate, relevant, and not excessive in relation to the business objective.
  • Data should be obtained in a lawful manner.
  • Individuals must give their consent before data pertaining to them can be gathered. Such consent may be implied from the individual’s actions (e.g., when they apply for credit, insurance, or employment).

Data accuracy: to ensure that misleading information will not be distributed, the following principles apply:

  • Sensitive data gathered on individuals should be verified before it is entered in database.
  • Data should be accurate and, when necessary, kept up to date.
  • The file should be made available so the individual can ensure that the data is correct.
  • If there is disagreement about the accuracy of the data, the individual’s version should be noted and included in any disclosures of the file.

Data Confidentiality: the privacy policy should ensure confidentiality as follows:

  • Computer security procedures should be implemented to provide reasonable assurance against the unauthorized disclosure of data. These procedures should include physical, technical, and administrative security measures.
  • Third parties should not be given access to data without the individual’s knowledge or permission, except as required by law.
  • Disclosures of data, other than the most routine, should be noted and maintained for as long as the data is maintained.
  • Data should not be disclosed for reasons incompatible with the business objective for which it was collected.

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 and People Management


Productivity—real output per working hour—is not rising quickly as it did previously. This does not necessarily mean that workers are becoming lazier. What it does mean is that in an uncertain economy, businesses are not investing enough in the machinery needed to help workers accomplish more. For example, the steel plants are so obsolete that Japan and Germany are taking over the international steel markets. Too, as the economy become more service-oriented, productivity tends to slow down. The reason is that services—such as family counseling—tend to be able to increase productivity only by reducing their quality.

Managing people and resources on all levels of organizations will continue to be a major managerial challenge. Future managers have to be more sensitive to people’s needs and more flexible in resolving problems. Early retirement and part-time work programs are likely to become common in the near future.

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.

Sensitivity Analysis


Sensitivity analysis allows the impact of different possible outcomes to be evaluated easily. It is sometimes described as ‘what if?’ analysis, because it answers the question ‘what if such and such were to happen?’

Typical outcomes which can be evaluated are:

  • What if development work costs 5% more than forecast?
  • What if the sales launch is delayed by six months?
  • What if sales in the first year are 10% below forecast?
  • What if sales prices are 1% higher or lower than forecast?

Various possibilities can be evaluated to find out which factors will have the greatest impact upon the return to be achieved. This allows management attention to be focused on the most sensitive aspects of the project in an informed way.

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.

Business Visionaries


The days of doing business as we have been doing in the past are gone. We can no longer afford to continue using traditional approaches in managing our companies. Executives or organizations that insist on clinging to outmoded ways of thinking will find themselves standing on the sidelines as new traditions are being established by forward thinking business visionaries. The business leaders of the future are awakening, sensitive to the personal responsibility the public now demands from the business community.

All of us share certain values and beliefs. We value the human spirit and believe that modern society must change in a deep and fundamental way the way it thinks, if we are to have a sustainable future. We also believe that the most effective leverage in achieving such a global transformation is through the business community.

It is doubtful that the business community would take this leadership role out of altruism. However, we believe that if business leaders recognize a need to operate responsibly, and feel that their personal values are in accord with organizational values, they will begin doing business in a new way—establishing new traditions in business communities around the world.

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.

Problems of Conduct


In Japan’s early history, a serious disregard for manners could be punishable by death, and any samurai could kill any common person who failed to show him proper respect. The Japanese were required to behave in precisely prescribed ways—wearing permitted clothing, walking only a certain way, sleeping with their heads pointing in a certain direction and legs arranged a particular way. Eating, greeting, gesturing with hands, opening doors and many work tasks had to be done in assigned ways without deviation. Conduct became a measure of morality, and virtue in manners was visible for all to see. Even today, the code of conduct plays a significant role in the lives of the Japanese. Many societies, not Japan alone, have a prescribed form and manner for every familiar situation that might arise. Unforeseen situations can cause intense embarrassment or discomfort. Throughout East Asia, actions are judged by the manner in which they are performed. More important than the accomplishment of a task is the question of how someone went about trying to complete the task: Did he act sincerely? More important than winning the race is the grace of the runner. More important than expertise is the way one gets along with others. More important than profits is harmony. In contrast, Westerners and particularly Americans are more concerned with the principles of things, hard “measures” and objective facts. Although rules of ethics are extremely important, we are more goal oriented than method-conscious, we say “a good loser is a loser.”

One aspect of form is the concept of “face.” Much has been written about “face-saving” in Japan and China, but face-saving is important absolutely everywhere. The difference is only a matter of degree and nuance. Where an American might feel a little guilty or inadequate, an Asian, Arab or South American may feel deep shame and humiliation. What an American might see as a little honest and constructive criticism, the foreigner may take as a devastating blow to pride and dignity. A foreigner is likely to be sensitive to feelings of others in transactions that an American would consider strictly impersonal, such as returning a defective product or switching hairdressers. The traveler simply must be more conscious of saying things or behaving in ways that cannot be taken as disrespect, criticism or humiliation. In some countries it seems just about anything can be taken personally, even such indirect affronts as not taking your shoes off in a mosque or complaining about the heat.

Harmony with the environment can be as important as sensitivity to people in some cultures. In Japan a woman wears a soft pastel dress to a flower show so as not to take away from the beauty of the flowers. In countries where people believe in reincarnation they are careful about all forms of life. In India, for example, people are careful not to swallow gnats or step on ants—one might be a relative.

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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