Defining Issues & Priorities


Ensure that the key issues facing business have been realistically defined in light of the current and rapidly changing business environment. There is nothing new about this requirement, but the fact is that very few management teams actually take the time and apply the discipline necessary to objectively define and prioritize the key issues that can make or break their business. The issues of inferior quality, higher cost products, lower productivity, and nonresponsive service plague manufacturers for the better part of the recent past. Many companies in industries such as steel, automotive, machine tool, textile, farm and construction equipment suffer badly as a result. Only few companies address these issues in effective ways. Most are unable to clearly identify the key issues, set priorities, and develop the necessary business plans to overcome the underlying problems.

While the specific issues vary for different companies and industries, the management mindset should not vary. To deal effectively with an increasingly turbulent environment, priorities must be set so the business can survive unexpected blows, adapt to sudden dropping changes, and then capitalize on smaller windows of opportunity that develop and close much more quickly than they have in the past.

Many progressive managers kick off their planning process with a session aimed specifically at getting agreement on key issues and priorities. Accepting these priorities require a shift in the way most managers think and act, such as:

  • Liquidity becomes a more important objective, often more important than reported earnings. It provides the flexibility to deal more effectively with unexpected events than is possible when everything is tied up in fixed and slow moving assets.
  • Productivity gains per dollar of capital and per employee must be achieved annually. These reductions must exceed inflation and achieve demonstrably lower costs.
  • Innovation must never stop. Demonstrable product and process improvements must be achieved year after year.
  • All cycle and response times must be continuously reduced.
  • A “frightened” sense of urgency must be the way of life in all parts of the business.

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.

Death of a Wonder Youngster


Arfa Karim (born 1995 – January 14, 2012), was a student from an under-developed village of Pakistan, who in 2004 at the age of 9 years, became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in the world. She was invited by Bill Gates to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in USA. She also wrote a poem about Bill Gates.

On returning to Pakistan, Arfa had numerous interviews on almost all of the country’s known television channels and newspapers. In August 2005, Arfa Karim received the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of Science and Technology, presented by the Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time. She also received the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award again in August 2005 by the President of Pakistan. Arfa Karim is also the recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance. This is a very high level civil award granted to people who have shown excellence in their respective fields over a long period of time. Arfa is till now the youngest recipient of that award ever.

Arfa Karim has also represented Pakistan on various international forums, she was invited by the IT Professionals of Dubai for a stay of two weeks in Dubai. A dinner reception was hosted for her there, which was attended by the diagnostics of Dubai including the Ambassador of Pakistan. During that trip, Arfa was presented with various medals and awards. She also flew a plane in a flying club in Dubai at the age of 10, and received the first flight certificate.

In November 2006, Arfa was invited by Microsoft to be a part of the keynote session in the Tech-Ed Developers conference held in Barcelona. The theme of the conference was “Get ahead of the game” and Arfa was presented as a true specimen of being ahead of the game. She was the only Pakistani among over 5000 developers in that conference.

As of 2011, at the age of 16, Arfa Karim was studying at Lahore Grammar School Paragon Campus in her second year of A Levels. She suffered from cardiac arrest after an epileptic seizure on December 22, 2011 and was admitted to Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in critical condition.

On January 2, 2012 Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited the hospital with his daughter Fiza Batol Gilani to inquire about the health of Arfa Karim.

On January 9, 2012, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, has made contact with Arfa’s parents, and directed his doctors to adopt “every kind of measure” for her treatment.

On January 13, 2012, The condition of world’s youngest MCP Arfa Karim was improving and some parts of her brain showed signs of improvement. Arfa fell desperately ill last month and doctors said she had suffered brain damage, leaving her in a coma at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Lahore. Her father, Amjad Karim, said Microsoft had raised the possibility of flying Arfa to the US for care.

On January 14, 2012 16 years old Arfa Karim died at 9:50 PM (Pakistan Standard Time) at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Lahore. (Wikipedia)

Arfa wrote some poems. Specimens include:

I would like to be …..

Like a bird in the sky
Flying freely and so high
Like a fish in the water
And the kings beautiful daughter

Like a tiny little mouse
Eating cheese around the house
Like a bear in the mountain
And the water in the fountain

Like a lion in the jungle
Roaring loudly with hunger
Like a monkey in the zoo
All the time copying you
. . . . Arfa Karim

White Rose

In the storm
Stands the white rose
tumultuous waves
of destruction abound her

Yet tall is the white rose
strong in the face
Of the sensed doom around her
And she does not bow down

Pure is the white rose
In the compost earth
growing eternal strength
in the nights that so hurt

I see not the white rose
She is so far away
But I long to protect her
But only the words can I say

So I send her my words
And my poets heart
To help her when
there is hope to see her through

Be Strong little flower
Your heart will guide true
And as long as you want
I will always talk to you
. . . Arfa Karim

Stars

  I look to the sky at night and admire the beauty of the stars.
I stand in awe of their brilliance;
They are as shining and constant
and they have been since the beginning of time.

They light the heavens and fill our hearts with wonder.
When one burns out, another takes its place;
for they are eternal.
Wherever you are, they guide you from their home high above the earth.
At times, they seem close enough to touch,
as they transport your dreams far away.

Their magic compels us to offer up wishes for their consideration.
They make us realize that even when the sky is the darkest,
a tiny beacon of light still shines through.
They are God’s reminder to us that some things really do go on forever.
. . . Arfa Karim

I have no daughter, but Arfa Karim was a daughter figure.  Till 3:30 am and despite my perpetual efforts I was unable to have a snooze. The news about her death made me so upset that my eyes welled up tears and my heart filled up with gloom. Arfa, was the shine of the moon and the breeze of morning; she bestowed her colors to rainbow; she left behind her wings for her fellow daughters to scale the heights of knowledge. Arfa was a complete person: she was not just a book worm, she used to play games, watch cartoon programs, fly planes, play music, and sing folk songs. Above all she memorized some verses of Qur’an and practiced high moral character. She can be a role model—an inspiration—to our younger generation. With tears in its eyes, I pay rich tribute to Arfa. Nevertheless, I feel her saying:

Don’t cry for me,
I’m right here.
Although you can’t see me
I can see your tears

Do’s and Don’t’s in Brainstorming


Do’s

  • Have warming up session prior to brainstorming in order to create a free environment.
  • Allow people to make noise, shout, laugh, etc.
  • Write ideas on a board or sheet so that everyone can see it.
  • Encourage/appreciate all ideas.
  • Allow wild and silly ideas
  • Give them time to think.
  • Number all ideas sequentially.
  • Transmit ideas to get more ideas from it.
  • Try to have as many youngsters as possible.
  • Do end on the wildest idea.

Don’t’s

  • Don’t allow non-members/non-participants.
  • Don’t allow interruptions in any form.
  • Don’t drag the session when ideas don’t come.
  • Don’t spend too much of time for initial briefing.
  • Don’t remove/wipe the ideas written on the board.

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.

Observe Fringe Times


Formal business situations, highly structured meetings, negotiating sessions, and other forms of business interaction are likely to be the least revealing because they are the times when people are most likely to have their “game faces” on.

 So consciously time in to the fringe times, the beginnings and endings, the periods of transition, which are when people are most likely to let their guards down. During a two-hour business meeting, the first several minutes—before you actually get down to the business at hand—and the last several minutes—as everyone is saying goodbye—can tell you more about the people you are dealng with than almost anything else that goes on in between. These are, unfortunately, the times when you are likely to be least observant. Try to sharpen your awareness.

 Also, be aware of people during interruptions, unusual exchanges, or anything that intrudes upon the more formal flow of a business situation. There is a certain amount of role playing in most business encounters, and when someone “breaks ranks” the facades are going to crack a little. Simply noticing who does the breaking and how others respond with words and eyes can tell you a lot.

 There is a scene in The Godfather that perfectly illustrates this: The Godfather has just flatly rejected an offer from the Mafia boss to get involved in the drug business, when Sonny, his hotheaded eldest son, blurts out that the terms that have been proposed are insulting to the family.

 This, of course, leads to the attempt to eliminate the Godfather. The other dons have correctly perceived a break in ranks, for simply by the act of objecting to the terms, Sonny has revealed a greater willingness than his father to consider the deal.

 Though The Godfather is fictional, its psychology is very real.

 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

Sales Rep—Role Playing


A popular technique used in most companies has the trainee act out the part of a sales rep in a simulated buying session. The buyer may be either a sales instructor or another trainee. Role-playing is widely used to develop selling skills, but it can also be used to determine whether the trainee can apply knowledge taught via other methods of instruction. Immediately following the role-playing session, the trainee’s performance is critiqued by the trainee, the trainer, and other trainees.

 Role-playing where a sales trainee performs in front of others and where that performance is subsequently critiqued can be harsh. Some problems disappear if the critique is conducted only in the presence of the sales trainee and then only by the sales instructor. When handled well, most trainees can still identify their own strengths and weaknesses.

 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

Preparing Minutes


There are two primary rules for minute preparation:

  1. Write Minutes as Soon as Possible: Time edges into memory faster than most people realize. Events which just took place are more clearly in mind than those occurring 24 hours ago. Write minutes as soon as possible after a session. Do not delay minute preparation. Notes are grand, and the better your notes, the better the minutes you will write. But notes are no substitute for accurate recall plus notes. This is why, in the absence of a manager being assigned to record the minutes, the group leader should either take full responsibility for the task or, immediately, at the beginning of the meeting, assign it to someone. Recall is important. That’s why the minutes should always be done as soon after the session as possible. Not as soon as convenient. As soon as possible. The minutes should never be written by anyone other than a person in attendance who took notes. Those notes, no matter how copious, passed to someone who was not in attendance, will not produce quality minutes.
  2. State Important Facts Briefly but Thoroughly: When writing the minutes, be brief but be as thorough as possible. In minutes, the requirement is names and dates and figures. Many minutes recount each motion and even the major directions and positions in the discussions. Too few tell who forged those directions and who took and/or held those positions. To be valuable, minutes must be thorough.

 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 contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Sticking to the basics


At a major power-tool company, drill sales weren’t up to projections, and the marketing director had brought in consultants and managers from marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and sales if they could figure out why. Frustrated that the session wasn’t getting anywhere, asked: “Why do you think people buy our drills?”

 

One consultant said it was the price. Others mentioned the company’s reputation for quality and service, the packaging and advertising, the easy availability and good warranty—all good answers.

 

“Hold on! Wait a minute!” the marketing director interrupted. “I’m beginning to see the cause of our problem. We have forgotten what business we are in. the real reason people buy our drills is because they want to make a hole! I think we’ve gotten too fancy. We’ve got to stick to the basics and sell them a tool that makes holes.”

 

When marketing started emphasizing how well the product drilled holes, sales increased 15 percent over a six-month period.

 

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 contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight