“Is” and “Is Not”


Once we have identified “could be”  but “is not” data, we will also be able to identify the peculiar factors that isolate our problem: exactly what it is, where it is observed, when it is observed, and its extent or magnitude. These peculiar factors will lead us closer to the problem’s cause.

Suppose for a moment that you have two identical potted plants growing in your office. One thrives but the other does not. If you take the wilting plant out of the office and ask someone about the probable cause for its sorry appearance, you will get any number of educated guesses. But if the same person observes that two identical plants in your office have not been receiving identical treatment (the thriving plant is on a sunny window sill and the wilting one is in a dim corner), the speculations as to cause will be immediate and more accurate than they could have been without a basis of comparison. Regardless of the content of a problem, nothing is more conducive to sound analysis than some relevant basis of comparison.

The decision as to what is close and what is logical must rest with the judgment of the problem solver. In many cases it is extremely important to identify the malfunction that “could be” but “is not” in order to narrow the scope of the search for cause. Each problem analysis is unique to the content of each problem.

Once we have identified bases of comparison in all four dimensions, we are able to isolate key distinguishing features of the problem. It is as if we had been describing the outlines of a shadow. With the completion of the “is not” data in our specification, the outlines begin to suggest the components capable of having cast the shadow.

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.

Competitive Marketing Theories


Competitive market theories are derived from the neo-classical economic concepts of rational choice and maximization of utility. The assumption is that individuals choose jobs which offer them maximum benefits. The utility or value of these benefits – money, vacation time, pension entitlement and so on – vary for different individuals according to their personal preferences. People move from one organization to another if improved benefits are available. At the same time, employer organizations attempt to get the most from their employees for the lowest possible cost.

The outcome of this process is a dynamic and shifting equilibrium in which both employees and organizations compete to maximize benefits for themselves. Within a specific region or industry there is a balance between supply and demand for human resources. Pay and conditions for employees are determined by the relative scarcity or abundance of skills and abilities in the employment market. Competitive forces push wages up when demand for products – and hence employees – increases, and downwards when the economy is in recession. In the latter case a market clearing wage is eventually arrived at which is sufficiently low to encourage employers to increase recruitment and eliminate unemployment. This discourse reinforces the view that employees are objects to be traded like any other commodities in the market – human resources in the hardest possible sense. Supposedly, they offer themselves – their skills and human qualities – for sale to the highest bidders. Within this mindset they could just as well be vegetables on a market stall.

Competition theories assume that job-seekers have perfect knowledge of available jobs and benefits. Job-searching is an expensive and time consuming business. The unemployed do not have money and those in work do not have time. The result is that few people conduct the extensive searches required to find jobs which meet their preferences perfectly. In practice, most individuals settle for employment which is quickly obtained and which exceeds the reserve minimum wage they have in mind. There is a considerable element of luck involved. Moreover, the job-seeker does not make the choice: in most cases the decision is in the hands of employer.

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.

Monopoly Regulation


Monopoly is usually considered to lead to economic inefficiency. Excessive monopoly profits are commonly regarded as unfair to consumers. Policies for dealing with monopoly range from laissez faire or toleration at one extreme to “trust-busting” at the other. Another possibility is to put monopolistic enterprises under government ownership, as is commonly done in Europe for railroads and telephone service. Regulation of the monopoly’s price and quantity or quality of service by a government agency is important. In the US regulation is standard practice for privately owned ‘public utilities’ providing goods and services such as electric power, water and gas, telephone, and transportation—usually thought to be natural monopolies.

The standard philosophy of regulation aims at limiting the monopolist to a ‘normal profit.’ Normal profit is supposed to be just adequate to attract needed capital and other resources into the business, but not so high as to represent exploitation of consumers. Normal profit in the accounting sense corresponds to zero economic profit. Zero economic profit characterizes long-run equilibrium in perfect competition. In a sense regulation achieves the result that may occur if competition is possible.

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.

Acute Corporate Stress


Acute corporate stress is the most easily diagnosed. Something is clearly wrong and this will be evident in its financial performance. In the worst cases, a type of organizational schizophrenia takes hold, with conflicting decision making criteria and behavior very much in evidence.

Many small organizations are run by two partners that hardly converse despite spitting distance of each other, both ordering the same people to do different things. There are also giant PLCs and governments where supposed colleagues direct whole divisions as if they were private armies in pursuit of incongruent goals.

The good news in these situations is that this type of crisis is hard to ignore, that there is little alternative to taking action and that there are several courses of action that are proven to help.

The bad news is that if action is not taken the organization is on a fast track of failure.

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.

 

Inflation and Disinflation


Fiscal policy is related to inflation, which occurs when the prices of goods and services rise steadily throughout the economy. Although many factors (such as increases in the prices of imported goods) contribute to inflation, government borrowing is major factor. When the government borrows great sums of money to bolster the economy, the total amount of money circulating tends to increase. With more money chasing the same quantity of goods and services, inflation increases too.

Theoretically, the government is supposed to pay back its debt during inflationary times, thereby taking some of the excess money out of the economy and slowing inflation to moderate level. This system worked throughout 1950s and 1960s, but during the 1970s, inflation kept building. By the end of the decade, prices were increasing by almost 14 percent a year.

Inflation of this magnitude brings an unproductive mind-set. People become motivated to buy “before the prices goes up,” even if they have to borrow money to do it. With greater competition for available money, interest rates increase to a level that makes business borrowing riskier and business expansion slower. Businesses and individuals alike begin spending on short-term items instead of investing in things like new factories and children’s education, which are more valuable to the nation’s economy in the long run.

Because of the peculiar psychology that accompanies high inflation, slowing it has always been difficult. In addition, the causes of inflation are complex, and the remedies can be painful. Nevertheless, several factors conspired to bring about a period of disinflation, a moderation in the inflation rate, during the 1980s.

Whether inflation will remain under control is debatable. The country is still vulnerable to outside shock. Bad weather could jack up food prices, and political upheavals could limit the supply and boost the price of vital raw materials. Also, government efforts to stimulate the economy could rekindle inflation. When the economy slumps, the government is inclined to increase the money supply, which tends to drive prices up.

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.

Conflict of Interest


A conflict of interest exists when a person must choose whether to advance his or her own personal interests or those of others. For example, a manager in a corporation is supposed to ensure that the company is profitable so that its stockholder-owners receive a return on their investment. In other words, the manager has a responsibility to investors. If she instead  makes decisions that give her more power or money but do not help the company and is not fulfilling her responsibilities. To avoid conflicts of interest, employees must be able to separate their personal financial interests from their business dealings.

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.

What Strategic Planning is not?


Clearly, strategic planning is no panacea. Strategic planning is simply a set of concepts, procedures, and tools designed to help leaders, managers, and planners think and act strategically. Used in wise and skillful ways by a “coalition of the willing,” strategic planning can help organizations focus on producing effective decisions and actions that further the organization’s mission, meet in mandates, and satisfy key stakeholders. But strategic planning is not a substitute for strategic thinking and acting. Only caring and committed people can do that. And when used thoughtlessly, strategic planning can actually drive out precisely the kind of strategic thought and action it is supposed to promote.

Furthermore, strategic planning is not a substitute for leadership. There is simply no substitute for leadership when it comes to using strategic planning to enhance organizational performance. At least some key decision makers and process champions must be committed to the strategic planning process, or any attempts to use it are bound to fail.

In addition, strategic planning is not synonymous with creating an organizational strategy. Organizational strategies have numerous sources, both planned and unplanned. Strategic planning is likely to result in statement of organizational intentions, but what is realized in practice will be some combination of what is intended and what emerges along the way. Strategic planning can help organizations develop and implement effective strategies, but they should also remain open to unforeseen opportunities. Too much attention to strategic planning and excessive reverence for strategic plans can build organizations to other unplanned and unexpected—yet incredibly useful—sources of information, insight, and action.

The discipline necessary for strategic planning can be of two sorts. The first harkens back to Latin root of the word “discipline,” emphasizing instruction, training, education, and learning. The second embodies later interpretations of the word, emphasizing order, control, and punishment. Emphasis should be placed on education and learning, although there clearly are occasions when imposing order, taking control, and enforcing appropriate sanctions are appropriate. Certainly, key leaders, managers, and planners can best use strategic planning as an educational and learning tool, to help them figure out what is really important and what should be done about it. Sometimes this means following a particular sequence of steps and preparing formal strategic plans, but not necessarily. The ultimate goal of strategic planning should not be a rigid adherence to a particular process or an instance on the production of plans. Instead, strategic planning should promote wise strategic thought and action on behalf of an organization and its key stakeholders. What steps to follow, in what sequence, and whether or not to prepare formal plans are subsidiary concerns.

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.

Evaluate


Evaluation is intimidating. Often, managers are too busy to keep up with what people are doing and how well they are doing. And when managers don’t know what their people are doing, they can’t  evaluate accurately. As a result, they feel unable to support their impressions or comments about performance—and so they avoid the task.

But when selection and direction are done properly, evaluation becomes a logical, easy-to-implement process. If you know what your people are supposed to do and have assigned each of them specific tasks, responsibilities, and objectives with deadlines, then you have criteria against which to measure that individual’s performance. In this situation, evaluation becomes a simple matter of determining whether or not a person has met those goals, and how well.

Mangers often assume that if they select good people and direct them in what is expected, things will get done. They’re right. Things will get done, but how well they will get done and how long they will take are uncertain. Evaluation lets you determine how well something was done and whether it was done on time. In a sense, evaluation is like a traffic cop. You can post all the speed limit signs in the world, but they will be ignored unless people know that infractions will be discovered and fined.

This sounds logical, but it’s surprising how many managers postpone evaluation again and again while they focus on more pressing but ultimately less important duties. When evaluation is postponed, deadlines also slip, because employees begin to feel that timeliness and quality are not important. When performance slips, more responsibilities shift to the manager—who thus has even less time to direct and evaluate employees.

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

Conducting an Interview


You may not have the time or inclination to create structured situational interviews. However, there are several things you can do to increase the standardization of the interview or otherwise assist the interviewer to ask more consistent and job relevant questions. They include:

  1. Base questions on actual job duties. This will minimize irrelevant questions based on beliefs about the job’s requirements. It may also reduce the likelihood of bias, because there’s less opportunity to ‘read’ things into the answer.
  2. Use job knowledge, situational, or behaviorally oriented questions and objective criteria to evaluate the interviewee’s responses. Questions that simply ask for opinions and attitudes, goals and aspirations, and self-descriptions and self-evaluations allow candidates to present themselves in an overly favorable manner or avoid revealing weaknesses. Structured interview questions can reduce subjectivity and therefore the chance for inacurate conclusions, and bias. Examples of structured questions include: (a) situational questions like, “Suppose you were giving a sales presentation and a difficult technical question arose that you could not answer. What would you do?”; (b) past behavior questions like, “Can you provide an example of a specific instance where you developed a sales presentation that was highly effective?”; (c) background questions like, “What work experiences, training, or other qualifications do you have for working in a teamwork environment?”; (d) job knowledge questions like, “What factors should you consider when developing a TV advertising campaign?”
  3. Train interviewers. For example, review laws with prospective interviewers and train them to avoid irrelevant or potentially discriminatory questions and to avoid stereotyping minority candidates. Also train them to base their questions on job-related information.
  4. Use the same questions with all candidates. When it comes to asking questions, the prescription seems to be “the more standardized, the better.” Using the same questions with all candidates can also reduce bias “because of the obvious fairness of giving all the candidates the exact same opportunity.”
  5. Use rating scales to rate answers. For each question, provide a range of possible ideal answers and quantative score for each. Then you can rate each candidate’s answers against this scale. This ensures that all interviewers are using the same standards.
  6. Use multiple interviewers or panel interviews. Doing so can reduce bias, by diminishing the importance of one interviewer’s idiosyncratic opinions, and by bringing in more points of view.
  7. If possible, use structured interview form. Interviews based on structured guides usually result in the best interviews. At the very least, list your questions before the interview.
  8. Control the interview. Limiting the interviewers’ follow-up questions (to ensure all interviewees get the same questions), using a larger number of querstions, and prohibiting questions from candidates until after the interview are other “structuring” techniques.

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

Customer Value Action Items


  1. Describe the relationship between process and value;
  2. How does the process view differ from the functional view?
  3. Explain how you would use the marketing cycle and process model to analyze your current business situation.
  4. What quotations would you ask if your company was currently under-doing a review of its processes?
  5. What is a value statement? See if you can describe your firm’s value statement.
  6. What is service blueprinting and when is it appropriate to use?
  7. Suppose you are the manager of a quick-serve restaurant and you begin to notice that your lunch business is steadily declining. Moreover, you notice that customers are queuing up longer at the drive-through window. Which of the process improvement tools would you consider using, and why?

 My Cosultancy–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

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