Economic Truths


Although there are few truisms that apply universally in the business world, there are four related economic truths that are valid in every business situation:

  1. Over the long term, it is absolutely essential to be a lower cost supplier or profit margins will erode.
  2. To stay competitive, inflation-adjusted costs of  producing and supplying any product or service must continuously trend downward.
  3. The true cost and profit picture for each discrete product/market segment is often obscured by traditional accounting practice.
  4. Real business winners concentrate as much or more on cash flow and balance sheet strength as they do on reported profits.

These points have always been valid, but they are far more serious today because there is much less margin for error in our more turbulent environment.

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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The Significance of Productivity


The significance of productivity in increasing national welfare is universally recognized. There is no human activity that does not benefit from improved productivity. This is important because more of the increase in gross national income, or GNP, is produced by improving the effectiveness and quality of manpower than by using additional labor and capital. National income, or GNP, grows faster than the input factors when productivity is improved.

Productivity improvement, therefore, results in direct increases in the standard of living under conditions of distribution of productivity gains according to contribution. It would be wrong to state that productivity is the only important worldwide source of real economic growth, social progress and improved standard of living.

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.

A Socially Responsive Company


Executive leaders of largest corporations have been confronted with an unprecedented increase in the social issues impinging upon their business policies and practices. Not only have a variety of social regulations have been developed that apply universally to all industries, but each industry has also experienced to varying degrees a proliferation of industry-specific challenges for the corporate social environment.

In response to the pressures, businesses have increased their efforts to manage for corporate social environment. The social environment encompasses business activities influenced by various community and government groups. Many chief executives spend more time on the external affairs of the business than any other activity. Most executives allocate significant personnel, time, and budget to the creation of elaborate staff groups to help them understand and manage this environment and its challenges.

Some firms may be more vulnerable to social group pressure and social regulation than others. A number of factors have been identified as contributing to this vulnerability. A firm may be more vulnerable to social forces if the firm is:

  • A large-sized or well-known company thus presenting a big target.
  • Located in an urban area and under increased scrutiny by the media and social groups.
  • Producing a consumer-oriented product viewed as a necessity by the public.
  • Providing a product or service that may cause harm or injury to the user.
  • Part of a heavily regulated industry that is expected to meet high public expectations.

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.

 

Ethics and Leadership


There are several different types of leaders:

  1. Universal Leaders: Those who believe that ethics has no business in the workplace. Their decisions are not guided by ethical principles. They tend to operate out of personal and pragmatic motives with less concern for the altruistic or idealistic implications of their decisions. This does not mean that every decision is unethical, merely that the ethics of the decision is not considered when it is made.
  2. Ethical Leaders: Those who are personally ethical in word, thought, and deed and conduct their decision making openly so that they are perceived as ethical even from a distance. Not only do these leaders consider the ethical consequences of their decisions, in addition to the individualistic and pragmatic, but also it is obvious to the observer that this is the case. They make a point of ensuring that the ethical aspects of their decision-making process are as valuable and transparent as they are pragmatic. Additionally, ethical leaders are attentive to culture and symbol aspects of how they act out the “moral manager’s” role. They understand that their actions and decisions communicate symbolically as well as literally.
  3. Ethically Neutral Successful Leaders: Those who are personally ethical in word, thought, and deed, but are not open about it. These leaders may not be perceived as ethical from a distance. They are often viewed as not paying adequate attention to the ethical component of their decisions, not because the outcome is unethical, but rather because their decision-making process is not readily apparent.
  4. Hypocritical Leaders: Those who deliberately choose to act unethically.

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.

Just About Money


Strictly defined, money is anything generally accepted in exchange for goods and services. To be used as a medium of exchange, money must be acceptable, divisible, portable, stable in value, durable, and difficult to counterfeit.

Acceptability: To be effective, money must be readily acceptable for the purchase of goods and services and for the settlement of debts. Acceptability is probably the most important characteristic of money: If people do not trust the value of money, businesses will not accept it as a payment for goods and services, and consumers will have to find some other means of paying for their purchases.

Divisibility: Given the widespread use of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies in the United States, it is no surprise that the principle of divisibility is an important one. With barter, the lack of divisibility often makes otherwise preferable trades impossible, as would be an attempt to trade a steer for a loaf of bread. For money to serve effectively as a measure of value, all items must be valued in terms of comparable units—dimes, for a piece of bubble gum, quarters for laundry machines, and dollars (or dollars and coins) for everything else.

Portability: Clearly, for money to function as a medium of exchange, it must be easily moved from one location to the next. Large colored rocks could be used as money, but you couldn’t carry them around in your wallet. Paper currency and metal coins, on the other hand, are capable of transferring vast purchasing power into small, easily carried bundles.

Stability: Money must be stable and maintain its declared face value. The principle of stability allows people who wish to postpone purchases and save their money to do so without fear that it will decline in value. Money declines its value during periods of inflation, when economic conditions cause prices to rise. Thus, the same amount of money buys fewer and fewer goods and services.

Durability: Money must be durable. The crisp new dollar bills you trade at the music store for the hottest new CD will make their way all around town for about 18 months before being replaced. Were the value of an old, faded bill to fall to line with the deterioration of its appearance, the principles of stability and universal acceptability would fail. Although metal coins, due to their much longer useful life, would appear to be an ideal form of money, paper currency is far more portable than metal because of its light weight. Today, coins are used primarily to provide divisibility.

Difficulty to Counterfeit: To remain stable and enjoy universal acceptance, it almost goes without saying that money must be very difficult to counterfeit—that is, to duplicate illegally. Every country takes steps to make counterfeiting difficult. Most use multicolored money, and many use specially watermarked papers that are virtually impossible to duplicate.

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.

Speaking the Body Language


About 60 to 70 percent of what we communicate has nothing to do with words. More important than speaking the language is what you communicate without words. Many travelers trust that if they don’t speak the language, there are a hundred gestures to get across almost any meaning. But gestures have quite different meanings in different parts of the world; body language is not universal. Subtleties are noticed, like the length of time you hold on while shaking hands. On a very unconscious level we can turn people off even when we are on good behavior. Thumbs up is considered vulgar in Iran and Ghana, equivalent to raising the middle finger in the United States. Touching a person’s head, including children’s, should be avoided in Singapore or Thailand. In Yugoslavia, people shake their heads for yes—appearing to us to be saying no.

In general, avoid gesturing with the hand. Many people take offense at being beckoned this way, or pointed out, even if only conversationally. In parts of Asia, gestures and even slight movements can make people nervous. If you jab your finger in the air or on a table to make a point, you might find that your movements have been so distracting that you have not made your point at all. Unintentionally, Americans come across as aggressive and pushy. Yet, in other parts of the world, particularly in Latin America or Italy, gesturing is important for self-expression, and the person who does not move a lot while talking comes across as bland or uninteresting. As always, watch what local people do. Or ask.

Body language is more than gestures. You communicate by the way you stand, sit, tense facial muscles, tap fingers, and so on. Unfortunately, these subtler body messages are hard to read across cultures; mannerisms don’t translate. In many parts of the world, looking someone in the eye is disrespectful.

In Japan a person who looks a subordinate in the eye is felt to be judgmental and punitive, while someone who looks his superior in the eye is assumed to be hostile or slightly insane. The Arabs like eye contact—the eyes are windows to soul—but theirs seem to dart about much more than Americans. We don’t trust “shifty-eyed” people.

Subtle differences in eye contact between the British and North Americans can be confusing. English listening behavior includes immobilization of the eyes at a social focal distance, so that either eye gives the appearance of looking straight at the speaker. On the other hand, an American listener will stare at the speaker’s eye, first one, then the other, relieved by frequent glances over the speaker’s shoulder.

Eye contact during speaking differs too. Americans keep your attention by boring into you with eyes and words, while the British keep your attention by looking away while they talk. When their eyes return to yours, it signals they have finished speaking and it is your turn to talk. These almost imperceptible differences in eye contact interfere with rapport building and trust.

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.

Management of the Life Cycle


The traditional branching tree control structure within an organization is simply not designed to cope with the ever changing management requirements dictated by the life-cycle changes within a large project. The fact that various input and output measures vary over the project’s life suggests that project management must focus on universal project dimensions such as cost, time and performance (quality).

As an example of how interface problems vary over the life of a project, consider the two functions of R&D and production over the life-cycle of a given product. Before the introduction of the product, R&D must be closely matched with production. R&D may be doing reliability tests which will lead to engineering changes. Production will be doing production design and process planning, which may be affected seriously by engineering changes. Thus, good communication is essential to avoid wasted resources in production.

On the other hand, in the growth phase R&D is likely to be focusing on developing the next product, while production will be ramping up production and producing long runs to avoid production losses due to setups. Thus, there will be relatively little explicit conflict between R&D and production at this phase.

In the decline phase, R&D will be in the design phase on the new product and will withdraw all R&D from the declining product. Production will be heavily involved in cost control. Again there will tend to be no apparent conflict, but good managers will make sure production is adequately consulted on the new design.

It is clear from the example that a full project management structure which focuses on future products as well as current products can help R&D to interact in a more useful fashion.

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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