Focusing Facts not Opinions


The lure of appearance and the tendency to focus on symptoms and cosmetics is commonly made rather causes and fundamentals. Structured discussion, the sharing of information and knowledge and the application of understanding does not just happen. The board and its members may need to be equipped with the processes and tools to focus upon fact and reality, in place of opinion and assumption.

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.

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Decision-making in Crisis Situations


Corporate transformation often occur in situations of crisis. Classic studies of crisis decision making have highlighted the tendency to focus on the short term, and to concentrate upon fewer options, when the ‘going gets tough.’ There is a danger that a sense of balance and perspective might be lost just when it is most needed.

Members of board can experience a tension between the requirement to become more deeply involved in order to demonstrate commitment, and the desirability of maintaining a distance in order to preserve a degree of independence and objectivity. A corporate change program can increase this schizophrenic pressure upon the individual director.

In situations of crisis there is a tendency to cut out information and individuals who do not fit, and to concentrate power in the hands of a smaller group of people. This prospect can pose problems for directors who have genuinely reservations which they feel duly bound to express.

A chairman should think twice before ‘wielding the knife’. It is important to probe the reasons for hesitency. Enthusiasm could be the product of sycophancy, and caution the result of thought. Team players are not those who just go along without thinking. Some colleagues are cautious. They are not obstructive. They are realistic.

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

Complacency Breeds Failure


Once they are making a lot of money, many salespeople, for instance, tend to get complacent. They get lazy and sloppy and stop attending to the basics. The same thing happens in many different areas when people or teams are successful. Success, is the goal, the finale, the reward, the finish line. Because it is viewed as the end and not the means, there is a tendency to think we’ve got it made when we achieve our goal. We think we know the basics, have the skills and drills down, and start taking success for granted. The result is, we get killed into complacency and slack off.

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

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 www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Knowledge Management: Sharing What is Known


One by one, employees learn what they need to know and develop areas of expertise that are called on when needed to perform a certain job. However, there are occasions in which somebody in an organization requires special expertise but doesn’t know how to find it within the company. When this occurs, the company may waste time and money by “reinventing the wheel,” developing expertise that already exists (if they only knew where to find it). In other cases, if the necessary expertise is not tapped or new expertise is not developed, then either something will get done improperly or it will not get done at all.

Acknowledging this situation, in recent years many companies have instituted what is known as knowledgement management programs. Knowledge management is defined as the process of gathering, organizing, and sharing a company’s information and knowledge assets. Typically, knowledgement programs involve using technology to establish repository databases and retreival systems. These are ways of using computers to sort through and identify the areas of expertise represented in the company—that is, its intellectual capital. But don’t misunderstand: Knowledgement relies on human skills for success. Computers merely organize what those skills are and where in the company they may be found. One-third of all companies and 80 percent of large multinational enterprises already have a knowledge management system in place, and most others expect to implement in the near future.

It’s important to note that simply having a knowledge management program does not ensure success. Employees also must use it, but too often they don’t. this is called knowing-doing gap—the tendency for employees to refrain from using the knowledge that’s available to them in the company, leading to poor performance. Although there are many possible reasons for not using a knowledge management system, the most dominant is the tendency for employees to be afraid of expressing their ideas (for fear of giving people in other parts of the company an advantage over them) or of seeking ideas from others (for fear of admitting that they don’t know something). Obviously, for knowledgement to be effective people in the company have to be willing to both donate and receive information. To ensure that their company’s knowledge resources are put to use, execuitives put various incentives in place to encourage the company’s many experts to add their expertise to the database and to encourage employees to use others’ expertise contained in the database. Given the success of the company’s system, it’s apparent that the knowing-doing gap may not be found in the company. In fact, on the heels of its success, similar systems need to be introduced in the company’s sales reps and its research and development unit.

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

Consumers of Advertising


It is vital, from the outset, to guard against the normal psychological tendency to impose your advertising “pattern” on a rather complex reality. Consider, for example, that the advertisements you may encounter through television, radio, the campus newspaper, magazines, direct mail, billboards, and the like are only a fraction of all the forms that advertising takes in other places in other times, for different purposes, and among different audiences. Yet, there is a tendency to equate that fragmented reality with the whole. Advertising is bad (good) for children; advertising is good (bad) for the economy; advertising helps us make wise (unwise) purchase decisions; advertising makes goods cost more (less); and so on. Simply, some advertising may be (or do) any of these things. All advertising is however far too complex to permit such over-simplifications.

By way of further example, one of the frequently voiced complaints of advertising critics is that advertising is not informative enough. Now, if we wish to point to some specific advertisements, it would not be difficult to accept such a premise. An advertisement for an expensive car may tell us that the car offers greater “class” than its competitors but nothing of its performance or life expectancy. Or a message for a cereal may feature a talking tiger, telling us of his adventures, but little of nutrition.

But there is other grist for this mill as well. A classified ad for a refrigerator may tell us its make, age, capacity, operating efficiency, and the reasons the seller has put it on the market. A message on drill bits for all rigs inundates its readers with performance data concerning the cost efficiencies to be accrued through the use of this bit compared with those of traditional composition. Do these ads also lack information?

To understand advertising then, you must first develop some knowledge of its more prominent functions. One way of getting a realistic picture of the landscape of advertising is to ask a simple question: Who uses advertising to reach what audiences through what media for what purpose? The pursuit of the answer not, of course, reveals all the nuances of advertising. It may, however, after a reasonable of some of the major species and subspecies and—not incidentally—serve to discourage embracing, “Advertising does …” thinking.

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

The Changing World of Business


The poor performance of star companies in the 1980s and 90s, both MNCs and domestic, has amply demonstrated their susceptibility to under-perform in the face of rapid and marked changes in technology, competition and customer expectations. It is not that all these companies lacked resources, capabilities or competent managers to anticipate and assess the impending changes and initiate proactive action; what they lacked was concern on the part of their managers to enhance the shareholder value of their respective firms on a sustained basis. As a result, this value got diverted to the customers, employees, competitors and suppliers of the company. While it is well known that a firm needs to develop distinctive capabilities and also build a strong network with its key stakeholders to enhance its value creating potential and appropriation of value this created, what really happened in case of most of these unsuccessful firms was that one or more of the stakeholders gained at the expense of the shareholders. The proponsity of managers to take operating, investment and financial decisions without any concern as to how such decisions can affect their shareholders led them to pursue strategies and investments that were ill-conceived and poorly executed, thereby systematically destroying the capabilities and equity developed over the years.

We should argue how the outcome of such a tendency can be detrimental to not only the firms but also to the job and career of the managers, particularly in the light of the various new developments—such as economic liberalization and opening up of most economies to domestic and global competition, greater freedom to access and move capital, emergence of the market for corporate control, and rising shareholder, activism—which have brought the issue of enhancing shareholders’ wealth to the forefront.

It is clear that managers will need to take a fresh guard and revisit their strategies, business processes and organization in order to face this complex set of challenges and retain their firm’s ability to enhance wealth of their shareholders. Thanks to the contribution made by the academia and practising executives, managers now have access to various concepts based on experiences when it comes to facing such challenges. However, it must be stressed that the need of the hour is not another set of concepts and framework; rather what is required is a new “philosophy of business” that draws the attention of every employee of an organization, starting with the CEO, to the importance of creating, enhancing and sustaining shareholder value in everything that the company does—be it strategic, tactical or even routine matters. Needless to say, the employees will also need guidelines on how to operationalize this new philosophy and what actions are needed to sustain the same.

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

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