Travel Stress


We travel to get to work, we travel during our work, and we travel to get to distant meetings. Travel comes in all forms: short and long timeframes and short and long distances. For most people, the commonest hurdle is the daily grind to and from work. This is most acute in large cities. The problems are truly international, but some of the ugliest and best-studied traffic jams are now everywhere.

The levels of stress that this brings are extremely significant. For those who handle it poorly, it can be damaging  to their health, and may even endanger the lives of others. Medically, we know that stress mechanisms all fire at once when the body identifies a crisis. Adrenaline pours out, the stomach shuts down, the pulse races, and the hair stands up on end. The blood pressure soars, muscles clench in spasms around the shoulder tips and jaw,  and primal aggressions rise, ready for fight or flight.

With immediate flight brings out of the question, more and more frustrated drivers are turning to the fight option—either inside their cars as they tip at the heels of slower drivers, or outside their cars, where they may stomp up and beat a dent into the roof of an offending vehicle. Even the mild and polite become aggressive when they strap themselves into their bumper cars to drive to work. This means they usually arrive late, enraged and spent before they even start to face the day’s stresses on the job.

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.

Organizational Philosophy Statements


Ford Motor Company: “Quality is job 1!”

L. L. Bean: “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they’ll always come back for more.”

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company: “Quality is the key to our future success.”

Xerox: “Leadership through quality.”

Federal Express: “People—Service—Profit.”

Ritz Carleton: “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Citicorp Savings of California: “To consistently deliver a differential level of service so exceptional and so unexpected that it becomes a vehicle for the acquisition of profitable new relationships as well as the retention and growth of existing ones.”

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.

Benefits of Teams


Teams are good because many heads are more knowledgeable than one. Each member of the team has special abilities that can be used to solve problems. Many processes are so complex that one person cannot be knowledgeable concerning the entire process. Second, the whole is greater than the sum of its members. The interaction within the team produces results that exceed the contributions of each member. Third, team members develop a rapport with each other that allows them to do a better job. Finally, teams provide the vehicle for improved communication, thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful solution.

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.

 

Extending the Product Life Cycle


The concept of the product life cycle tells us that a sequence of actions is required to maintain a product’s sales and profits. The goal of the planning is to stretch out the life of the product, thus keeping it profitable longer. The following techniques are often effective in extending a product’s life cycle:

  1. New or extended uses: The sales of rugged four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles, ranging from inexpensive jeeps to Range Rovers, increased dramatically once they became accepted as family automobiles.
  2. b. Reduce price and build volume: Tylenol became a much more successful product after Johnson & Johnson reduced its price.
  3. c. Increased frequency of Use: Trade associations that are connected to the poultry and fish industries have been successful in informing the public that their products are low in cholesterol and should be eaten frequently as part of a healthy diet.
  4. d. Broaden the target market: As the ethical issue, American tobacco firms have successfully enlarged the market for American cigarettes by focusing on Japan. They have also been very successful in expanding the market for tobacco products in Europe and South America.

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.

 

Imitability


If a firm is making profits from core competences, the question is, why can’t other firms imitate it and build similar competences. This takes us to one property of competences: imitability—the extent to which a competence can be duplicated by competitors.  A firm would rather have competences that are difficult to duplicate or substitute. The question is, how? If the knowledge that underpins the competences is tacit in that it is not coded but rather embedded in organizational routines and cumulatively learned over time, potential imitators have three problems. In the first place, it is difficult to know just what it is that one wants to imitate in the second place, even if a firm knew exactly what it is that it wants to imitate, the firm may not know how to go about it since competence is learned cumulatively over the years and embedded in individuals or routine of firms. In the third place, since competences take time to build, imitators may find them themselves always lagging as they spend time imitating while the original owners of the competences move on to higher levels of the competences to newer ones.

If a competitor cannot build competences, the next question is, why not buy them? One answer is that competences may not be tradable or easily moved from one firm to another. Two reasons have been advanced for why. First, because of the tacit nature of the underlying knowledge, it may be difficult to tell just what it is that one wants to trade and who has the property rights for what parts of the underlying knowledge. What is it that we will buy from Honda that allows us to build zippy engines for cars, motorcycles, lawnmovers, and marine vehicles? Who has the rights for what part of the technological knowledge that underlies this competence? Second, the underlying knowledge may be sticky in that it is too costly to transfer. Because of the tacit nature of the data, one may need to observe the seller over long periods in order to learn. This may be too complex and expensive.

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.

 

Mergers and Acquisitions


Regardless of what form a business takes—be it a sole proprietorship, partnership, or a corporation—the chances are reasonably good that its form will evolve over time. Companies of all sizes and types achieve a variety of objectives by merging, dividing, and restructuring. The terms most often used to describe all of this activity are mergers, acquisitions, and leveraged buyouts. The difference between a merger and an acquisition is fairly technical, having to do with how the financial transaction is structured. Basically, in a merger, two or more companies combine to create a new company by pooling their interests. In an acquisition, one company buys another company (or parts of another company) and emerges as the controlling corporation. The flip side of an acquisition is a divestiture, in which one company sells a portion of its business to another company. In leveraged buyouts one or more individuals purchase the company (or a division of the company) with borrowed funds, using the assets of the company they’re buying to secure (or guarantee repayment of) the loan. The loans are then repaid out of the company’s earnings, through the sale of assets, or with stock. Leveraged buyouts do not always work.

Mergers and acquisitions represent relatively radical ways in which companies are combined. On a more modest scale, businesses often join forces in alliances to accomplish specific purpose. In a joint venture, two or more companies combine forces to work on a project. The joint venture may be dissolved fairly quickly if the project is limited in scope, or it may endure for many years.

A consortium is similar to a joint venture, but it involves the combined efforts of several companies. Cooperatives also serve as a vehicle for joint activities. In a cooperative, a group of people or small companies with common goals work collectively to obtain greater bargaining power and to benefit from economies of scale. Like large companies, these cooperatives can buy and sell things in quantity; but instead of distributing a share of the profits to stockholders, cooperatives divide all profits among their members.

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.

Measuring Productivity


You are likely to be judged – at least to some extent – by your financial performance. But financial measures such as profitability and return on investment are really indirect measures of the operations, good financial performance comes from good operations. You can measure the operations more directly using measures such as productivity, utilization and efficiency.

Productivity is the most common measure of operations. It shows the amount of output that you create for each unit of resource used. You might, for example, measure the number of units made per employee, sales per square meter, or deliveries per vehicle.

Your competitors are always trying to gain an advantage, and an effective way of doing this is by increasing their productivity. You then have to match their improvement simply to stay in business. So the benefits of higher productivity include:

  • Long-term survival;
  • Lower costs;
  • Less waste of resources;
  • Higher profits, wages, real income, etc;
  • Targets for continually improving operations;
  • Comparisons between operations;
  • Measures of management competence.

These are good reasons for improving productivity. But how can you do it? At the very worst, you simply make people work harder – problem solved. In reality there are four ways of increasing productivity:

  1. Improve effectiveness – with better decisions;
  2. Improve efficiency – with a process that gives more output for the same inputs;
  3. Improve the process – getting higher quality, fewer accidents, or less disruption;
  4. Improve motivation – getting better results from the workforce.

One of the problems with improving productivity is that employees see it as an excuse for sacking them. Productivity is really a measure of improvement performance, and it has very little to do with the old-fashioned idea of getting people to work harder. An enthusiastic person digging a hole with a spade can work very hard, and still be far less productive than a  lazy person with a bulldozer. Typically, 85 percent of productivity is set by the process which is designed by managers and only 15 percent is due to the individual workers.

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.

Learning by Objectives


Companies in high-tech businesses have evolved a variant of management by objectives as the vehicle for involving technical, professional, and managerial employees in the analysis of their own training and development needs. Usually, as part of a formal MBO system, manager and employee sit down together and negotiate a written agreement on the technical and professional training the subordinate will undertake in the coming six months or a year. At the end of the period they review the outcome and decide what further training is called for. Both of them understand that the subordinate’s career will be shaped by these decisions.

Trainees’ involvement in needs analysis reduces wasted effort by eliminating the teaching of what is already known, by getting quickly to questions that engage the trainees, and by affording them a chance to ask questions that help them acquire skills.

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.

Creating an Integrated Marketing Communications Program (IMC)


a)        Use zero-based budgets. Most companies use incremental approaches in allocating promotional budgets. A preferred approach is the objective and task approach. Start with a zero budget and force all promotional managers managers to justify their investment.

b)        Focus primarily on current customers. Many organizations direct 80% or more of their advertising and selling effort activities to trying to win new business (conquest marketing).  An Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program recognizes the importance of retention marketing and inverts that ratio so that a majority of the promotional activity is earmarked for relationship building with existing customers. This reduces customer defection, upgrades business relationships, and creates advocates for the firm’s services.

c)        Use highly targeted mass promotion. Direct mail, specialized lists, trade publications, and the Internet can be used effectively to reach prospects rather than suspects. A website has become an indispensable marketing technology for 21st century companies. It has evolved into a one-stop, online corporate information source, customer support tool, distribution channel, order taker, product catalog, price list, promotional vehicle, research technique, segmentation source, and a strategic and tactical marketing differentiator.

d)        Build marketing relationships. Strategic partnering is a major part of a good IMC program. In addition to Internet and intranets (protected corporation information resource centers), progressive companies are creating extranets which link an enterprise’s extended family of suppliers, distributors, retailers, and partners. Hence, customer, channel, referral, and stakeholder relationships can all be nurtured through carefully conceived promotional efforts.

e)        Note that everything an organization does send a message. Image and atmospherics are very important in communicating value to customers. The little things, such as stationery, signage, telephone greetings, and website design, etc., should all reflect professionalism and a consistent message to the marketplace.

f)          Two-way dialogue is key. In an over-communicated society, the marketing challenge is to establish a meaningful dialogue with customers as to how the firm’s service mix can provide maximum benefits/value. Interactivity and involvement on the part of the customers is important for sharing information and creating firmer bonds. The Web is an ideal medium to accomplish this objective. Its selectivity and flexibility create a customized business experience for each user.

g)        Use 21st century communication technologies. In today’s changing marketplace, companies must seek new and better ways to stay in touch with their target markets. Appropriate communication options include e-mail, electronic commerce, fax-on-demand, telemarketing, point-of-sale promotion, special events, multimedia, etc.

h)        Measure promotional effectiveness. Traditionally, advertising executives competed with sales managers for their “fair share” of the corporate promotional budget. Today, management requires accountability and demands to know and justify the return on investment of limited resources—they will no longer accept the non-measurable communications methods used by marketers in the past. A marketing information system/database is the key tool for effectively monitoring and measuring the success of an IMC program. As part of this process, job descriptions and reward systems are likely to be redesigned. In a strong IMC-centered environment, in-house competition is replaced with cooperation and teamwork. Joint rewards help the organization do what is best, rather than just project individual turfs.

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 Face of Customer Service


Excellent customer service—the daily, ongoing support of a company’s offerings—is critical in creating brand identity and ultimate success. It includes answering questions, taking orders, dealing with billing issues, handling complaints, scheduling appointments, and similar activities. These essential functions can make or break an organization’s relationships with its customers. The quality of customer care can significantly impact brand identity for service, manufacturing, and consumer products companies. Because of its importance in creating impressions and sustaining customer relationships, customer service has sometimes been called the “front door” of the organization or its “face.”

 

So how has the “face” of customer service changed with the influx of technology? Long ago all customer service was provided face-to-face through direct personal interaction between employees and customers. To get service you had to visit stores or service providers in person. The telephone changed this, allowing customers to call companies and speak directly with employees. Customer service became less personal, but without a doubt more efficient, through use of the telephone. With the evolution of computer technology, customer service representatives (CSRs) became even more efficient. Through computer information systems and customer data files, CSRs are able to call up customer records at their workstations to answer questions on the spot.

 

Over time, because communication and computer technologies allowed it, large organizations began to centralize their customer service functions, consolidating into a few large call centers that could be located anywhere in the country or world. But still, in these types of call centers, customer service is for the most part an international event with customers talking directly, one-on-one with an employee.

 

The advent and rapid proliferation of the efficient, but much maligned, automated voice response systems have changed personal customer service in many organizations into menu-driven, automated exchanges. In almost every industry and any business context consumers encounter these types of systems, and many are quite frustrating—for example, when a system has a long confusing set of menu options or when no menu options seems to fit the purpose of the call. Similarly, consumers become angered when they cannot get out of the automated system easily, or when there is no option to speak to a live person.

 

Some companies have overcome these obstacles, however, and have well-designed automated telephone systems that work well for customers. This is accomplished through a form of natural-language speech recognition technology that allows customers to easily interact through the telephone in ways that are much like talking to a real person. Further, a human contact is always easy to get to if needed. Customer satisfaction is rated among the highest in any industry. One of the keys may be that the vice president of retail voice technology occupies a senior management position, showing importance placed on this function. In general, satisfaction levels for automated speech recognition systems are higher than satisfaction with touch-tone systems and in some cases are higher than for live agents.

 

Beyond automated telecom systems, explosion of the internet is also dramatically changing customer service for many companies. Service can now be provided on the internet via e-mail, website robots, FAQs, and online chat. In these cases there is no direct human interaction, and customers actually perform their own service. At Ford Motor Company’s technology that allows dealership customers to set their own service appointments, send messages regarding their specific repair needs, and monitor the status of their vehicles, all online.

 

With the relentless proliferation of technology solutions, firms are finding that expectations for customer service have changed. Customers are demanding choices in how they get customer service, whether it be over the phone, automated voice systems, via fax or email, or through internet self-service. However, while customers often enjoy technology-based service and even demand it in many cases, they dislike it when it doesn’t work reliably (a common problem), when it doesn’t seem to have any advantages over the interpersonal service alternatives, and when there are no systems in place to recover from failures. Interestingly, when things don’t work as they are supposed to on an internet site or through an automated response system, customers are quick to look for more traditional interpersonal (in person or via telephone) options, coming full circle to where we started.

 

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