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.

Defining Oligopoly


An oligopoly is a form of competition in which a market is dominated by just a few sellers. Generally, oligopolies exist in industries that produce products such as steel, cereal, automobiles, aluminum, and aircraft. One reason some industries remain in the hands of a few sellers is that the initial investment to enter an oligopolistic industry is usually tremendous. Think what it would cost to build a steel mill or an automobile assembly plant. In an oligopoly, prices tend to be close to the same. Note, for example, how most credit cards charge very similar rates. The reason for this is simple. Intense price competition would lower profits for all the competitors, since a price cut on the part of one producer would most likely be matched by others. Product differentiation, rather than price differentiation, is usually the major factor in market success in a situation of oligopoly.

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.

Facing the Harsh Facts


Many companies that have lost profits or market share have managers who are still waiting patiently for their business to “get back to normal.” Others are looking for government help for their declining market and profit positions. Neither of these approaches is a viable situation. What is needed is less wishful thinking and rhetoric and greater willingness to squarely face the true facts about their markets and competitive positions. The demand changes that have occurred in many markets are structural, not cyclical, and it is unrealistic to expect any kind of a dramatic recovery or turnaround that will restore demand to former levels.

It is extremely difficult for managers who have built their entire careers around specific products and technology to accept the fact that their former business base has now leveled out from prior peaks, or worse yet, become obsolete or irretrievably lost to new competitors or technology. Obviously, many old-line steel managers could not imagine today’s world of aluminum cans, plastic auto parts and bodies, or Japanese, Korean, and small regional producers who constantly “beat their pants off.” Nor could managers in the high flying semiconductor business foresee the situation where their markets have not only ceased to gallop ahead, but decline dramatically, and where foreign sources, including Brazil, Korea, and Taiwan, have captured the bulk of the remaining business. Unfortunately, these are the facts, and an equally discouraging set of forces applies in many other markets.

It is understandable that managers who have grown up and lived through the growth years in any of these industries find today’s conditions difficult to accept. But they must change their myopic or unrealistic views of their business so they can tackle the hard work required to regain a profitable competitive footing. Otherwise, their situations will not improve and will most likely deteriorate further.

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

Rethinking Organization’s Infrastructure


An architect’s work requires more than site selection and structural design. A building also has an infrastructure, a complex and sometimes invisible web of systems that work together to make the building functional and livable. These include the mundane heating, electrical, plumbing, and air circulation systems, as well as the essential channels for people movement and telecommunication hookup.

Infrastructure is not just an add-on. The development of new technologies that provide efficient solar heating also required architects to consider a new set of factors when siting a building. Just as the invention of the elevator paved the way for today’s concrete and steel skyscrapers, some new organizational concepts and technologies are needed to make horizontally oriented structures workable and vacuum free.

The organizational infrastructure needs to make the new corporation work. Issues such as the hierarchy of reporting relations, the career structures they imply, and the middle managers who populate must be considered, along with ways to rethink control and coordination so that new learning, rather than resigned compliance, is produced.

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

Business Marketing Management


Many large firms that produce goods such as steel, production equipment, or computer-memory chips cater exclusively to business market consumers and never directly interact with their ultimate consumers. Other firms participate in both the consumer goods and the business markets. The introduction of laser printers and personal computers brought Hewlett-Packard, historically a business-to-business marketer, into the consumer market. Conversely, lagging consumer markets prompted Sony Corporation to expand to the business market by introducing office automation products. Both companies had to reorient their marketing strategies dramatically because of the significant differences between the buying behavior exhibited in the consumer versus the business markets.

 Products like cellular phones, office furniture, personal computers, and software are purchased in both the consumer and the business markets. What distinguishes business marketing from consumer goods marketing is the intended use of the product as we all intended consumer. Sometimes the products are identical, but a fundamentally different marketing approach is needed to reach the organizational buyer.

 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

What’s Your Opinion?


A key part of the optimum result method is to get people to express themselves. Everyone has an opinion about a lot of things: What the company is doing, right or wrong; what’s good and what’s bad about the economy; how the mayor or president is performing; and whether any policy will survive.

 

And many people in a business have opinions about how the enterprise could be better run. The problem is, in most organizations the people who do the work are never asked, “What is your opinion?” “Got any ideas for doing this better?” and “Can you suggest a way to do this in less time?” As a result, a large amount of intelligence is untapped, the people with ideas feel frustrated, and the organization’s performance suffers.

 

A number of things explain, but one thing you should be doing is to get the opinions of your people before making key decisions. The best intelligence often comes from front-line staff. We install the steel we fabricate all over the country. Make it a point to talk with installation crews; ask for their opinions about what our customers are thinking. Maintain a steady flow of opinions, gathering information from your installation and sales people.

 

All people think. Encourage them to tell you what they’re thinking about. When you ask for opinions from employees doing different functions, you accomplish two things. First, you win their cooperation because they’ve had a chance to give you their views. Second, you pick up a lot of good ideas you can turn into profit.

 

Nevertheless, there is a problem when you teach the what-is-your-opinion technique to few managers. Some of them are conditioned to believe that asking other people, particularly subordinates, for their ideas is a sign of weakness. Letting other people express their opinions is a sign of strength.

 

Use the optimum results. It works wonders in getting what you want—a sale, a better job, and cooperation and support.

  • Find out what is the ideal benefit the other person seeks.
  • Tailor what you have to offer to provide that ideal benefit.

 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