Commitment to Action


Understanding the marketing concept is one thing; following through with the commitment to make tough decisions is quite another. Many companies stumble badly here. Companies with a superior marketing effort, on the other hand, repeatedly demonstrate their commitment to follow the marketing concept by their willingness to require cooperation from all functions, to invest for long-term goals, and to face up to deficiencies in product, price, or service.

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.

Commitment to Principles


We are increasingly convinced that there are several principles which tend to lead us to good process management. They are tough and often sacrificed.

Focus: In very competitive situations managers often go to focus; that is, they try to zero in on part of the playing field, part of the market, or part of the technology. Narrowing focus yields greater capability and a shared vision, like the power of a laser. However, in a reverse twist, focus always means we try to solve the customer’s whole problem, at least as much as we can. Ours is not a point solution. For example, product disposal is now getting attention in the design stage, and designers resist the rush to completion mentality of cycle time.

End User Drive: During technical development today, the end user’s problems are the top of every page. Technical development isn’t over until the customer agrees that we have solved the problems we began with.

Productivity: Everyone seems to agree that we must destroy oppressive bureaucracy in the new products operation. Any organization, however, even on a kid’s baseball diamond, needs some bureaucracy, and even ventures teams that have been spun out from their firms need a little. It is a glue, and its policies reduce the time spent on routine 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, and my Lectures.

Stumbling on Leadership


Using today’s methods of managing the technical development process, the most important decision top management makes on a new product is the selection of the group leader. The second most important decision is to stay out of the way and let the leader lead.

But who is a leader? Or, better, who will develop into a leader? The person has a non-authoritative position; that is, a leader has no line authority over such co-workers as peers, peers’ subordinates, temporary employees, vendors (subcontractors, suppliers), customers, and bosses. The leader leads in a milieu that can change from supportive to hostile overnight, with parameters that are almost completely unknown (e.g., competitive reactions), and with a new and even more inexperienced team of people.

Yet that person can overcome virtually every obstacle. That person alone can enthuse and motivate a group of people to do what seems impossible. Fortunately there is lots of this leadership around, managers with successful track records in this work and many managers who are as yet undiscovered. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to pick out the undiscovered.

Compounding all of this is the conviction of some firms that a new products project actually needs two leaders, a creative, inspiring type for early on, and a tough disciplinarian for the later stages. Very rarely do we find people who can do both.

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.

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

Intuitive Leadership and Sound Business


Intuitive Leadership is a term that has come into vogue only recently. In fact, tough-minded male executives have confessed to using intuition in their decision-making. Intuitive leadership is more than simply old-style leadership with some intuition added in to guide the corporate decision. It is leadership that takes into account both (a) the executives’ appreciation of their inner resources that are available but often not used and (b) the changes in institutions and society that are accompanying the “awakening” of employees and the public at large. The term “awakening” is used to describe the general phenomenon whereby people are becoming aware that they no longer have to accept their adopted beliefs, beliefs that they developed or accepted throughout most of their lives. These beliefs can include belief in the inderiority of certain ethnic or gender groups, beliefs in the sacrosanctity of economic customs and business practices (even if they are demonstrably not good for people or the planet), belief in powerlessness before the “big system,” or belief in the limited extent of one’s own ability to create what one wants.

In view of these changes, what is sound business for the future? What do these changes mean to business people? Of one thing we can be sure: business life will be replete with challenges. Some of these challenges will stem from the global dilemmas, with growing recognition of the role business has unwittingly played in accelerating modern society’s race towards self-destruction. Some of these challenges will stem from the changing attitudes of employees and the general public—the customers. The new environment for business will emphasize innovation and will be highly competitive. To prosper in such an environment, a business firm will need to attract and hold its most creative people. To do that, businesses will have to provide a work environment that fosters creativity development.

Developing intuitive leadership in the future will not be a luxury or a passing fad; it will be the heart of business. The challenges will be great. It will be necessary to deal effectively with the increasing complexity, interconnectedness, and systematic nature of the economic system. There is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that there will be persistent problems of mediocrity, debt, trade balance, global dilemmas, and worker morale. The good news is that we have inner resources we haven’t been using—untapped resources that are quite capable of dealing with these problems.

Thus “intuition” is not just a new gimmick in management decision making. Intuition is a code word for a necessary transformation of business—indeed, of global society.

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

Knowledge Entrepreneurs


There depends a lot on the energy and imagination of knowledge entrepreneurs. They need to identify specific opportunities being created by the greater availability and accessibility of information and knowledge, and craft distinctive information and knowledge-based products and services.

All entrepreneurs have to identify opportunities to add value by meeting requirements that are not being addressed, and they must be focused and tenacious and possess a clear sense of direction. Most entrepreneurs need also to be tough, pragmatic and resilient. In addition, knowledge entrepreneurs need the following qualities:

  • They must know how to acquire, develop, share, manage, exploit and capitalize on information, knowledge and understanding, and be able to help and enable others to use and apply them effectively. This may require combinations of emerging technologies to connect relevant people and organizations together, and competencies to network with others, work and learn in new ways in order to create value, lead and manage virtual teams, and establish and manage knowledge businesses.
  • They need curiousity and drive to undertake intelligent searches and to be able to judge or determine the significance, relevance and value of what they uncover. Many more people can access information than assess it or use it effectively. Understanding where information has come from, the underlying assumptions and how it has been compiled can prevent an enterprise or a course of action from being built upon foundations of sand.
  • They require enough understanding of systems to be able to use an appropriate range of technologies to identify and access relevant sources of information, knowledge and understanding. However, technical expertise is unlikely to be enough. Communication and relationship-building skills are also required to interact with information providers and bring together the combination of experience and knowledge needed to assemble a package that has market value.

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 Pregnant Pause


The use of the pregnant pause in selling is very much like fishing with a net. You put some bait in a net and silently wait for a fish to swim in.

Once you get to the point in a sales pitch where you have asked for commitment, don’t speak again until the other person has replied in some fashion. Don’t restate your case. Don’t lobby. Don’t tell him you know it’s tough decision, but …

The buyer may be struggling with his decision and conducting an internal dialogue with himself. Don’t help him out. If he asks a question, answer monosyllabically. Even if the silence is deafening, just let it sit there.

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

Managing Cash and Liquidity


In a turbulent environment, cash returns are important, if not more important, than reported profit returns. Cash returns lead to liquidity, and liquidity is a top priority consideration whenever risks and uncertainties surround a business situation, as they do in so many cases today. Cash and liquidity put any company in a better position to withstand a surprise blow, adapt to sudden changes, and capitalize on the narrower windows of opportunity that are commonplace in a turbulent environment.

This doesn’t mean that profits and profit growth are not important. The whole purpose of any business enterprise is to maximize profits and profit growth, but this objective will  not be achieved if business unit managers do not focus more time and attention on managing their cash and liquidity. Any entrepreneur that has lived through a start-up knows the importance of cash and liquidity. The entrepreneur knows from experience that a business can go bankrupt even while it is reporting profits. But it will never go bankrupt as long as its cash and liquidity positions are strong. Most corporate executives understand this point also, but many do not follow through to make sure it is sufficiently stressed or understood at the operating level. This is where the problem lies. Most business unit managers who operate under a corporate umbrella tend to overlook the importance of managing their own cash and liquidity and look instead to the corporation as a never ending source of funds.

The results are apparent in most corporations. Capital expenditure proposals tend to be a “wish list” often justified on project volume gains or cost savings that never occur. Working capital is allowed to build without adequate regard for carrying costs on the cash commitment. In short, overinvestment in plant and equipment, and working capital often serves as a buffer to cover sloppy business practices and control. These are practices that inevitably lead to an investment base that is too big for the business and to marginal profit returns.

Many operating managers in a corporation are not even aware of the costs incurred while excess capital is tied up in the business. This is not an exaggeration. Just ask any four or five business unit managers how much it costs to carry their inventory. Most of them will acknowledge an interest cost of, say 7—8 percent, but few will recognize that total carrying costs, which include storage, taxes, obsolescence, and shrink, actually run closer to 30 percent in today’s environment. We would also bet that none of them have such charges against their earnings, even though it is a very legitimate cost of doing business.

Not every company operates this way. Most corporate executives are not tough minded or rigorous enough in challenging cash commitments, and most business unit managers have more cash tied up in their business than required.

Ideally, every manager should think like a small business entrepreneur with his or her own money at risk. If this were the case, we would not see so many companies with bloated balance sheets and marginal returns. Left on their own, most business unit managers do not think this way, however. Life is not easier when you can draw almost at will on coroprate resources to meet the payroll, build inventories, and buy supplies, tooling and a lot of equipment. Under such conditions you don’t have to worry very much about how to make ends meet.

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

Commitment to Plan


Management commitment to plan is a difficult concept to define and probably the most difficult area to probe. At the same time, it is in many respects the most crucial area. A deep-rooted sense of commitment is why certain management teams are able to overcome all obstacles and still achieve planned results. It is the same ingredient that enables a team to win against tough competition even though their best players are injured or all the breaks in the game go against them.

Without attempting to be a psychologist, there are several things to look for to determine whether this sense of commitment exists. What has been the track record of those submitting the plan? It is a positive sign if they have a history of fulfilling commitments. Conversely, if the group has not met its commitments in the past, it is essential to find out what has changed to make their commitment to the current plan any more meaningful. Is this evidence that individuals understand how a failure to meet their personal or functional commitments would jeoperdize the ability of the whole group to accomplish its plan? Is there any indication that anyone in the group feels that function has overcommitted or that they have been pressured into making commitments that are unrealistic?

 It is unikely that anyone will admit they are not committed to a plan they developed and recommend. But questions directed to each functional area about the certainty or difficulty of achieving their part of the plan help everyone see what musdt be done to successfully implement the plan. Such questioning helps to establish the importance of each individual’s personal commitments not only to the plan but to the rest of the organization. In a sense, it helps to develop a form of peer pressure, which is just as important in the execution of the business plan as it is in other walks of life. No one enjoys being in the position of having let teammates down.

 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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