Partnering with Customers


  1. Pick high-visibility, vocal customers as your research partners and test sites. When you succeed together, they’ll spread the word quickly to their peers and pave your way into the market.
  2. As your customer list grows, organize their names and phone numbers by product and geographic area so you can easily provide references keyed to a prospect’s interests.
  3. Gather passive (i.e., written testimonials and quotes from customers to use in your sales materials, ads, and proposals. Remember to use videos.
  4. Use active testimonials with important prospects: Ask two or three present customers to call a prospective one, rather than waiting for the prospect to call them.
  5. Use on-site testimonials. Arrange a tour of customer premises where prospects can see your products performing.
  6. Find customers willing to meet prospects on your turf to endorse you and your products.
  7. Conduct joint presentations with your customers at industry meetings. Coauthor articles to automatically share the limelight with your customers.
  8. Bring your customers together at least once a year to share ideas with each other, give you feedback, critique new product concepts, and have a good time. Invite a few key prospects—they’re likely to come away sold.
  9. Take customers to trade shows and go to theirs. The better you know each other, the more value you both receive.
  10. Treat your customer-partners as heroes. Thank them—and more. For example, feature them in your newsletter, mail them a poster-sized letter signed by all your employees, or send a dozen balloons to their offices.

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

Creative Management of Product Design


An emerging area of importance is product/process design. In increasingly competitive, sophisticated markets, attractively designed products or processes sell well; shoddily designed products are left alone on the shelves. Excellent product design requires high orders of essence creativity (novel ideas), elaborative creativity (contextually relevant elaborations of ideas that are unique because of the kinds of components utilized and the way they are fitted together), and expressive creativity (unique aesthetic features). There can be following basic steps for coming up with successful and creative product design:

a)    The designing unit should have members with diverse expertise so that their brainstorms can result in unique product design concepts that are also practical.

b)   It is imperative that the design unit has an in-depth understanding of the client and the market, the technologies needed or involved, and the nature of the problem and the constraints that need to be kept in mind.

c)    The design unit must take the trouble to observe people in real-life situations to identify their needs, difficulties, likes, dislikes, etc. Creative design needs creative observation, that is observation that is not only accurate but also multi-angled so as to yield interesting design possibilities. Innovation begins with eyes. The design unit needs to create a ‘bug-list,’ that is, a list of the problems that presently bug the likely users of the future products.

d)   The design unit needs to visualize a new product concepts and the customers who could be captivated by them. This can involve building several physical models and prototypes, simulations on the computer, and creation of videos that portray high the new product may be used by people well before it comes into existence.

e)    The design unit needs to evaluate and refine the prototypes/models through several quick iterations, each one involving changes and improvements. Inputs should be secured not only from members of the design unit, but also from experts, the client, and the potential consumers. Exceptional design seldom come right the first time around. Serially generated improvements based on the reactions and suggestions of the product’s stakeholders can quickly get the design unit to an exceptional design.

f)     Effective implementation that leads to the commercial use of the product. This is often a long and tedious process that creative teams frequently neglect. But the planning of milestones, cost cutting and cost control efforts, packaging and so forth are indispensable if a product design is to taste commercial success.

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

Using Judgmental Forecasts


Judgmental forecasts are based on subjective views – often the options of experts in the field. Suppose a company is about to market an entirely a new product, or the board is looking at plans for 25 years in the future. They won’t have any relevant historical data for a quantative forecast. Sometimes there is a complete absence of data, and at other times the data is unreliable or irrelevant to the future.

 Quantative forecasts are always more reliable, but when you don’t have the necessary data, you have to use a judgmental method. There are five widely used methods:

  • Personal insight. This uses a single person who is familiar with the situation to produce a forecast based on his or her own judgment. This is the most widely used forecasting method – but is unreliable and often gives very bad results.
  • Panel consensus. This collects together a group of experts to make a forecast. If there is no secrecy and the panel talk freely and openly, you can find a genuine consensus. On the other hand, there may be difficulties in combining the views of different people.
  • Market surveys. Sometimes even groups of experts don’t have enough knowledge to give a reasonable forecast about, for example, the launch of a new product. Then market surveys collect data from a sample of potential customers, analyze their views and make inferences about the population at large.
  • Historical analogy. If you are introducing a new product, you might have a similar product that you launched recently, and assume that demand for the new product will follow the same pattern. If a publisher is selling a new book, it can forecast the likely demand from the actual demand for a similar book it published earlier.
  • Delphi method. For this you contact a number of experts by post and give each a questionnaire to complete. Then you analyze the replies from the questionnaires and send summaries back to the experts. You ask them if they would like to reconsider their original replay in the light of summarized replies from others. This is repeated several times – usually between three and six – until the range of options is narrow enough to help with decisions.

 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

Revisiting Leadership


Human beings are designed for learning. Unfortunately, the primary institutions of a society are oriented predominantly toward controlling rather than learning, rewarding individuals for performing for others rather than for cultivating their natural curiosity and impulse to learn. The young child entering school discovers quickly that the name of the game is getting the right answer and avoiding mistakes—a mandate no less compelling to the aspiring managers.

 

Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers—grades in school, gold stars, and on up through the university. On the job, people, teams, divisions are ranked—reward for the one at the top, punishment at the bottom. Incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.

 

Ironically, by focusing on performing for someone else’s approval, corporations create the very conditions that predestine them to mediocre performance. Over the long run, superior performance depends on superior learning. A full one-third of the Fortune 500 industrials listed in 1970 had vanished by 1983.

 

Today, the average lifetime of the largest industrial enterprises is probably less than half the average lifetime of a person in an industrial society. On the other hand, a small number of companies that survived for seventy-five years or longer. Interestingly, the key to their survival is the ability to run experiments in the margin to continually explore new business and organizational opportunities that create potential new sources of growth.

 

If anything, the need for understanding how organizations learn and accelerating that learning is greater today than ever before. In an increasingly dynamic, interdependent, and unpredictable world, it is simply no longer possible for anyone to figure it all out at the top. The old model, the top thinks and the local acts, must now give way to integrating thinking and acting at all levels.

 

While the challenge is great, so is the potential payoff. The person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of the people in his/her organization is going to blow the competition way.

 

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

Empowering People


Empowerment gives people more control over – and responsibility for – their work. It is based on the idea that those most closely involved with operations are in the best position to make decisions about them. So it delegates responsibility as far as possible, with people using their knowledge and abilities to manage the details of their own job, free from the instructions and control of a more remote supervisor.

 

You can see the difference when you go into a shop to exchange some garment. Marks and Spencer has empowered employees, and the first person you meet will happily refund your money or change the garment as you prefer.

 

There are five main types of management style:

  1. I decide and you do – which is the traditional authoritarian approach;
  2. We discuss and I decide – which involves some discussion but responsibility remains at the higher level;
  3. We discuss and we decide – which is more collaborative and has some real delegation of control, but ultimately authority and responsibility remains with the senior manager;
  4. We discuss and you decide – which delegates most control of the decision;
  5. You decide and I’ll help if needed – where the senior manager hands over control, and acts as a coach and consultant if needed.

 The last level is closest to empowerment and is the approach that is becoming more widely accepted. As Bill Gates says, ‘Empowering leadership means bringing out the energies and capabilities people have and getting them to work together in a way they wouldn’t do otherwise.’

 

Empowerment gives more authority to people lower down the organization, and it also puts more demand on them. They must be willing to accept this responsibility, be able to make good decisions, work without supervision and probably form part of a team which completes in identifiable part of the whole process.

 

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

Distinctive Competence


Distinctiveness is a relative concept – an organization is distinctive with respect to a benchmark established with reference to aspirations. For example, an organization may aspire to become the largest organization of its type in a region. Thus, one aspect of distinctiveness will be related to other organizations within that region, as this is their benchmark – not elsewhere in the world. However the benchmark for distinctiveness may change as the business model or livelihood scheme is explored – aspirations may become more ambitious as the group discovers that its distinctive competences are more distinctive than they had thought. Alternatively, sometimes a group realizes that they are not exploiting their distinctiveness as fully as they might, because they have not appreciated fully the nature of their distinctiveness.

The opposite may also occur. Here, a group discovers that much of what is distinctive is also useless in relation to their current aspirations. Many distinctive competences of an organization grow over time and the organization becomes so proud of them that they forget why they needed them. Distinctiveness is therefore relative to a benchmark, usually with respect to other organizations, existing or potential, as defined by the aspirations, rather than to any absolute criterion. This means that aspirations can subsequently be changed to become less demanding if increasing distinctiveness is difficult to come by. Exploring distinctive competences and aspirations must therefore be done together.

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

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