Writing Tips


  • When writing consider the recipients. What do they know already? What can you tell them?
  • Outline your memos and letters before beginning to write.
  • When writing reports, summarize key points or conclusions on the first page and document them with more information on subsequent pages.
  • Write like you speak to make your writing as readable as possible.
  • Learn the writing style of your organization and follow it. Don’t use flowery language (many adjectives and verbs) when inappropriate.
  • Have your secretary or assistant edit and proofread your correspondence for sentence structure and grammatical errors.
  • Keep dictionary thesaurus on hand to check spelling and word usage.
  • Use variety of sentence structures—simple, complex, and compound—to add interest to your writing.
  • When writing for a non-ethical audience, have a non-technical person identify jargon. Then either eliminate it or include a glossary defining the terms.
  • Use charts and tables wherever possible to present numerical information.
  • Use “action verbs” to add punch to your message.
  • Eliminate weak words like “very,” “interesting,” “often,” and other bland adjectives or adverbs.
  • Keep paragraphs short. Make sure the content of a paragraph revolves around only one thought—the topic sentence.
  • If you do a large amount of routine correspondence, standardize it as much as possible.
  • If procrastination is a problem, start writing a rough draft early so you have time to reverse it at least once.
  • When allocating blocks of time for writing, set aside periods of one to one-and-a-half hours, rather than trying to do it in segments of 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Develop a flash card system to work in your own common misspellings.
  • Dictate correspondence, memos, and so forth, to save time.
  • Seek immediate and specific feedback on reports you write.
  • Take a second or third look at your memos before sending them.
  • Use a grammar checking software program on your computer to identify errors you frequently make, and use that feedback to focus your efforts to improve your writing.

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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Market Penetration Strategy


A market penetration strategy is the one that dictates that an organization seek to gain greater dominance in a market in which it already has an offering. This strategy involves attempts to increase present buyers’ usage or consumption rates of the offering, attract buyers of competing offerings, or stimulate product trial among potential customers. The mix of marketing activities include lower prices for the offerings, expanded distribution to provide wider coverage of an existing market, and heavier promotional efforts extolling the unique advantages of an organization’s offering over competing offerings.

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.

Direct-mail Marketing: Checklist


  • Is there a perceived need for the product or service?
  • Is it practical?
  • Is it unique?
  • Is the price right for your customers or prospects?
  • Is it a good value?
  • Is the markup sufficient to assure a profit?
  • Is the market large enough? Does the product or service have broad appeal?
  • Are there specific smaller segments of your list that have a strong desire for your product or service?
  • Is it new? Will your customers perceive it as being new?
  • Can it be photographed or illustrated interestingly?
  • Are there sufficient unusual selling features to make your copy sizzle?
  • Is it economical to ship? Is it fragile? Old shaped? Heavy? Bulky?
  • Can it be personalized?
  • Are there any legal problems to overcome?
  • Is it safe to use?
  • Is the supplier reputable?
  • Will backup merchandise be available for fast shipment on reorders?
  • Might returns be too huge?
  • Will refurbishing of returned merchandise be practical?
  • Is it, or can it be, packaged attractively?
  • Are usage instructions clear?
  • How does it compare to competitive products or services?
  • Will it have exclusivity?
  • Will it lend itself to repeat business?
  • Is it consumable, so that there will be repeat orders?
  • Is it faddish? Too short-lived?
  • Is it too seasonal for direct mail selling?
  • Can an add-on to the product make it more distinctive and salable?
  • Will the number of stock keeping units – various sizes and colors – create problems?
  • Does it lend itself to multiple pricing?
  • Is it too readily available in stores?
  • Is it like an old, hot item, so that its success is guaranteed?
  • Is it doomed because similar items have failed?
  • Does your mother, wife, brother, husband, sister, or kid like it?
  • Is direct mail the way to go with it?
  • Does it fill an unfilled niche in the marketplace?

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.

 

Market-oriented Ethnography


To fully understand how customers of other cultures assess and use services, it is necessary and effective to use approaches, such as market-oriented ethnography. This set of approaches allows researchers to observe consumption behavior in natural settings. The goal is to enter the consumer’s world as much as possible—observing how and when a service is used in an actual home environment or consumption environment, such as watching consumers eat in restaurants or attend concerts. Among the techniques used are observation, interviews, documents, and examination of material possessions, such as artifacts. Observation involves entering the experience as a participant observer and watching what occurs rather than asking questions about it. One-on-one interviews, particularly with key informants in the culture rather than consumers themselves, can provide compelling insights about culture-based behavior. Studying existing documents and cultural artifacts can also provide valuable insights, especially about lifestyles and usage patterns.

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.

Planning a Research Strategy


If you plan your research strategy carefully, the whole project will flow smoothly. Follow these steps:

1. Work out a schedule and budget for the project that requires the research. When is the deliverable—the document or the presentation—due? Do you have a budget for phone calls, database, or travel to libraries or other sites?

2. Visualize the deliverable. What kind of document will you need to deliver: a proposal, a report, a Website? What kind of oral presentation will you need to deliver?

3. Determine what information will need to be part of that deliverable. Draft an outline of the contents, focusing on the kinds of information that readers will expect to see in each part. For instance, if you are going to make a presentation to your supervisors about the use of e-mail in your company, your audience will expect specific information about the number of e-mails written and received by company employees, as well as the amount of time employees spend reading and writing it.

4. Determine what information you still need to acquire. Make a list of the pieces of information you don’t have. For instance, for the e-mail presentation, you might realize that you have anecdotal information about employee use of e-mail, but you don’t have any specifics.

5. Create questions you need to answer. Make a list of questions, such as the following:

    1. How many e-mails are written each day in our company?
    2. How many people receive each mail?
    3. How much server space is devoted to e-mails?
    4. How much time do people in each department spend writing and reading e-mail?

Writing the questions in a list forces you to think carefully about your topic. One question suggests another, and soon you have a lengthy list that you need to answer.

6. Conduct secondary research. For the e-mail presentation, you want to find out about e-mail usage in organizations similar to yours and what policies these organizations are implementing. You can find this information in journal articles and from Web-based sources, such as online journals, discussion groups, and bulletin boards.

7. Conduct primary research. You can answer some of your questions by consulting company records, by interviewing experts (such as the people in the Information Technology department in your company), and by conducting surveys and interviews of representative employees.

8. Evaluate your information. Once you have your information, you need to evaluate its quality: is it accurate, comprehensive, unbiased, and current?

9. Do more research. If the information you have acquired doesn’t sufficiently answer your questions, do more research. And, if you have thought of additional questions that need to be answered, do more research. When do you stop doing research? You will stop only when you think you have enough high-quality information to create the deliverable. For this reason, you will need to establish and stick to a schedule that will allow for multiple phases of research.

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.

Executive Summary


The executive summary, sometimes called the epitome, executive overview, management summary, or management overview,  is a brief consideration of the document addressed to managers, who rely on it to cope with the  tremendous amount of paperwork they must read everyday. Generally, managers need only a broad understanding of the projects the organization undertakes and how they fit together into a coherent whole.

An executive summary for a document under 20 pages is typically one page (double spaced). For a longer document the maximum length is often calculated as a percentage of the document, such as 5 percent.

The executive summary presents information to managers in two parts:

  1. Background: this section explains the background of the project: the specific problem or opportunity—what was not working effectively or efficiently, or what potential modification of a procedure or product had to be analyzed.
  2. Major findings and implications: the methods are covered in only one or two sentences. The conclusions and recommendations, however, receive a full paragraph.

An executive summary differs from an informative abstract. An abstract focuses on the technical subject (such as whether the new radio based system effectively monitors the energy usage); an executive summary concentrates on whether the system can improve operations at a particular company.

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.

Japan’s Manufacturing Techniques


Nations are built not with bricks and stones but with the capacity to create and apply knowledge. The result of knowledge creation and application in manufacturing and management practices is well demonstrated by Japan. Today we are witness to many industrialized economies that are strengthening their manufacturing activities simply by adopting these techniques.

The distinguishing characteristics associated with Japanese manufacturing techniques include an emphasis on designing and redesigning processes to optimize efficiency and a strong commitment to quality.

The manufacturing techniques that Japanese companies practice provide a competitive advantage and outstanding economic performance. The key for success is an understanding of the broad context of manufacturing culture, infrastructure and environment. These sound manufacturing and business techniques created and adopted by leading Japanese manufacturers have turned out to be the secret of their market leadership in many industries.

Following are a few of these concepts, which can help in managing any business set-up in a better way:

  • Kaizen is one such technique, which in Japanese means ‘improve.’ This is commonly recognized as practices focusing on continuous improvement in manufacturing activities, business activities in general, and even life in general, depending on interpretation and usage. By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen helps in eliminating waste.
  • Another management Japanese technique is the 5-S. It is a technique used to establish and maintain quality environment in an organization. It has five elements: Seiri (sorting out useful and frequently used materials and tools from unwanted and rarely used things); Seiton (keeping things in the right place systematically so that searching or movement time is minimized); Seiso (keeping everything around you clean and in a neat manner); Seiketsu (standardizing the above principles in everyday life) and Shitsuke (inculcating good habits and practicing them continuously). The 5-S practice helps everyone in the organization to live a better life.
  • Kanban and ‘Just in Time’ are two other practices in inventory management practices that were pioneered by the Japanese automobile manufacturers, such as Toyota. Quality improvement, on the other hand, is the result of lower proportion of component scrap since the components spend less time in the supply chain.
  • Poka-yoke is a process improvement focused on training of workers for mastering the increasingly complicated tasks to selectively redesign the tasks so they could be more easily and reliably mastered. It involves designing a foolproof process to eliminate the chance of errors.
  • Jidoka is a practice by means of which an individual worker runs several machines simultaneously. Japan thus designs such machines that eliminate both error and the need for constant supervision.
  • Muda is another technique that reduces wasteful activity in service processes. It ensures process efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Mura curiously combines rigidity and flexibility and thus teaches service process improvement.
  • Reducing Muri means reducing physical strain. In services process improvement, Muri applies to convoluted and unnecessary routings, physical transfer, and distances paper files may have to travel for a process to complete.
  • Genchi Gembutsu means going to the actual scene (genchi) and confirming the actual scene (gembutsu). Observation of service processes at the point where it is actually delivered may unearth a host of problems such as lack of training, unnecessary steps, or a number of other areas that would benefit from small but significant process improvement ideas.

This is a glimpse of manufacturing techniques that Japan has so intellectually created and so profoundly practiced in its manufacturing systems that even with no natural resources, it has acquired the status of one of the most industrialized nations. Can we learn from Japan?

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.

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