Realigning the Organization

Organization or reorganization schemes have been proposed ad nauseam as solutions to many business problems. As a general rule, organizational changes, especially those that simply reshuffle the same names into different boxes on the organization chart, don’t improve anything. This does not mean suggesting some new organization approach that is better suited for these turbulent times. However, many organizations are too top-heavy, over-structured, and over-satisfied to be responsive to market needs and too costly to be competitive. The structure and staffing of any organization must be rigorously challenged to ensure it is really geared to accomplish the fundamental objectives of the business in as cost-effective a manner as possible. An honest evaluation of the answers to the following critical questions will provide a good function for action.

a)        Is the organization structured to serve markets or simply to manage functions and sell products? Have priority markets been identified? Does someone have primary responsibility for ensuring that the product/service package is tailored to each target market? Do mechanisms exist to ensure cross-markets? Is there any kind of a market focus in the selling organization?

b)        Are there enough discrete profit centers? Do enough managers feel the burden of full profit responsibility? Is the business unit larger than its most successful smaller competitors? Are there any big cost centers that are not assigned or allocated to someone who has a profit and loss responsibility?

c)        Are there corporate group or division staff redundancies? Do the same titles exist at different levels (e.g., corporate controller, group controller, division controller, plant controller)? If so, does it make sense? Can staff position or groups show how they actively contribute to profit results? If so, do line managers agree that these functions are worth the cost?

d)        Are there too many layers? Are there more than five layers between the business unit manager and first level workers? Are there managers with assignments limited to managing one, two, three or four people? Why? Can any of these activities be combined under one manager? Why not?

e)        Is the ratio of supporters to actual results producers satisfactory? How many people actually make a direct contribution to results (e.g., first-line sales personnel, direct hourly workers, sales order engineering and order entry workers, handlers of incoming materials, and storing and shipping personnel)? How many managers, staff, and support personnel are cheering them on? If there is more than one support person for every two producers, what do they do? How do they contribute to profits?

The questions are not new, but the answers are more important now than ever. Traditional or experience-based answers are probably wrong because conditions have changed so dramatically. Moreover, it is doubtful whether existing management can or will ever come up with the right answers, because they have vested interests and the changes needed are simply too tough for them to swallow. These organization structure questions are not as serious for many small to medium-size companies since they are not as likely to be troubled with highly structured, functionally focused organizations lacking a dedicated market orientation. However, even managers in these companies must constantly fight the natural tendency to become more structured, bureaucratic, and lethargic.

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, Line of Sight

Transaction-based Marketing Vs. Relationship Marketing

As marketing has entered the 21st Century, a significant change is taking place in the way companies interact with customers. The traditional view of marketing as a simple exchange process—a concept that might be termed transaction-based marketing—is being replaced by a different, longer-term approach.

Traditional marketing strategies focused on attracting consumers. The goal was to identify prospects, convert them to customers, and complete sales transactions. But today’s marketers realize that, although it remains important, attracting new customers is truly an intermediate step in the marketing process. Marketing efforts must focus on establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with existing customers. These efforts must expand to include suppliers and employees, as well.

The concept, called relationship marketing, refers to the development, growth, and maintenance of long-term, cost-effective exchange relationships with individual customers, suppliers, employees, and other partners for mutual benefits. It broaches the scope of external marketing relationships to include suppliers, customers, and referral sources. In relationship marketing, the term customer takes on a new meaning. Employees serve customers within an organization as well as outside it; individual employees and their departments are customers of and suppliers to one another. They must apply the same high standards of customer satisfaction to inter-departmental relationships as they do to external customer relationships. Relationship marketing recognizes the critical importance of internal marketing to the success of external marketing plans. Programs that improve customer service inside a company also raise productivity and staff morale, resulting in better customer relationships outside the firm.

Relationship marketing gives a company new opportunities to gain a competitive edge by moving customers up a loyalty hierarchy from new customers to regular purchasers, then to loyal supporters of the company and its goods and services, and finally to advocates who not only buy the  company’s products but recommend them to others. by converting indifferent customers into loyal ones, companies generate repeat sales. The cost of maintaining existing customers is far below the cost of finding new ones, and these loyal customers are profitable ones.

Effective relationship marketing relies heavily on information technologies such as computer databases that record customers’ tastes, price preferences, and lifestyles alongwith the increase of electronic communications. This technology helps companies become one-to-one marketers that gather customer-specific information and provide individually customized goods and services. The firms target their marketing programs to appropriate groups, rather than relying on mass-marketing campaigns. Companies who study their customers’ preferences and react accordingly gain distinct competitive advantages.

Firms in service industry, from retailers to hotels to airlines, are among the leaders in relationship marketing. Their staff members have many opportunities to meet customers personally and build loyalty and repeat business. Rewards for frequent buyers of a firm’s goods or services, such as hotel programs that reward frequent visitors with free room stays and other travel documents, are another form of relationship marketing.

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, Line of Sight