Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Theoretical Manager's Pride

In recent years there has been a rise in people who propagate the scientific school of management thought. Looking for management solutions in a board room and develop models which fit all organizations irrespective of the inside culture or product/service range. Rise in software’s helping managerial thinkers develop optimal solutions for problems which have significance levels of say 90% or better.
With the advent of these boardroom academicians the need of field experience has been thrown out of the window. After every model is a post script which says “Axis depends on so and so”. Management students try to implement these worthless concepts and models everywhere and end up in a hot pan. The problem is that they do not even know how little sense they make when they rise questions against the very existence of the organization, which many times has run for more time than their age.
Below classified are some academic and practical ways to develop or look for solutions for everyday problems in an organization.

1) Losing market share

Managerial approach: - Academicians rush to get the organization mapped into a model and perform SWOT analysis. Competency mapping of the sales team is done, average growth rates studies and a need-gap analysis attempted. Study (Which does not mean market research. It means study it from some fore published EBSCO articles) the untapped segments and look whether opportunity for a niche market exists.

Practical layman approach: - What the competitors are doing right which we are not. Where do we lag?

2) Company into losses

Managerial approach: - Academicians have a field day as they pour into the costing of every product in the product line. Look for avenues where costs can be cut. If the CEO of the company is a alumni of a ivy league college, immediately consultants are employed to identify bottlenecks and look for ways to alleviate the same. Vendors awakened again from the slumber and pushed hastily into boardrooms where a pinstriped manager with a pile of documents incriminates him for late delivery and so on. The manager scratches his head and the vendor his ass.

Practical Layman approach: - Continually monitor all important aspects of the organization and have good relations with suppliers and vendors. Tell them what you want. If over time you are not satisfied, get a new one.

3) Identification of customer needs

Managerial approach: - Statisticians are immediately brought on board. They come looking like gods of numbers with a geek intern by their side. Immediately some of them are sent out to look for buying patterns which is studied from the average time the product has stayed on the rack. Data is looked so critically at, sometimes a 6 becomes a 0 overnight as it feels raped. Next step is sending the intern to the point of sale. He orders for a coffee and has a big book in hand. Sits comfortably in a corner and if his male hormones are still churning after spending hours with his mentor every day, he can be seen with a cheap adult magazine. If you ask him what he is trying to study, he geekily replies “Analyzing consumer behavior through passive observation”. You leave him alone overwhelmed by his confidence. He returns to playing the flute.
Back in the boardroom the employees have been presented with perceptual mapping reports which have been further emphasized by cluster analysis, bi-variate and tri-variate analysis. The statistician exactly knows what the customer wants. He also charges extra because he did not even have to meet one. The company pays a premium.

Practical layman approach: - Send the sales team with the design/R & D team to talk to the customers. Ask them what they want. Innovate accordingly. (The academic geeks shall be dead against this point. They shall argue that sometimes even the customer does not know what he wants. At this point I shall choose to end the conversation.)
These are just some instances. Every problem has a practical solution to it. Six sigma, Kaizen and all such terms whose meanings I have failed to understand till this date, remain important tools which have been time tested. But nothing ever works in silos. Although I do not deem theoretical knowledge useless I consider practical knowledge to be more important. In the century old debate between theoreticians and practitioners, I just picked my side.

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