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Leadership & Business Wisdom

Resource-Allocation Decisions

The allocation of capital and people determine whether the organization will do well or poorly.

The allocation of capital and performing people converts into action all that management knows about its business – they determine whether the organization will do well or well or poorly. An organization should allocate human resources as purposefully and as thoughtfully as it allocates capital. To understand a capital investment, a company has to look at four measures: return on investment, payback period, cash flow, and discounted present value. Each of these four measures tells the executive something different about a prospective capital investment. Each looks at the investment through a different lens. Decision makers should not evaluate capital investments in isolation, but as part of a cluster of projects. They should then select the cluster that shows the best ratio between opportunity and risk. The results of capital spending be assessed against expectations in the post audit procedure. Information gathered from the procedure can then be used to help make decisions about future investments.

The decisions to hire, to fire, and to promote are among the most important decisions of the executive. They are more difficult than the capital allocation decision. An organization needs to have a systematic process for making people decisions that is just as rigorous as the one it has for making decisions about capital. Executives need to evaluate people against expectations.

Six Rules of Successful Acquisitions

Acquisitions should be successful, but few are in fact.

Acquisitions should be successful, but few are, in fact. The reason for this nonperformance is always the same: disregard of the well-known and well-tested rules of successful acquisitions.

The six rules of successful acquisitions are:

  1. The successful acquisitions must be based on business strategy, not financial strategy.
  2. The successful acquisition must be based on what the acquirer contributes to the acquisition.
  3. The two entities must share a common core of unity, such as markets and marketing, or technology, or core competencies.
  4. The acquirer must respect the business, products, and customers of the acquired company, as well as its values.
  5. The acquirer must be prepared to provide top management to the acquired business within a fairly short period, a year at most.
  6. The successful acquisition must rapidly create visible opportunities for advancement of for both the people in the acquiring business and people in the acquired business.

EVA as a Productivity Measure

Until a business returns a profit that is greater than its cost of capital, it does not create wealth, it destroys it.

Measuring total-factor productivity is one of the major challenges confronting the executive in the age of knowledge work. For manual work, measuring quantity is usually sufficient. In knowledge work, we have to manage both quantity and quality, and we do not know yet how to do that. We must try to assess total-factor productivity using the common denominator of revenues and expenses. By measuring the value added over all costs, including the cost of capital, EVA (economic value added analysis) measures, in effect, the productivity of all factors of production [or the true economic costs produced by all resources used].

Never mind that a business pays taxes as if it had earned a profit. It does not cover its full costs until reported profits exceed its cost of capital. Until a business returns a profit that is greater than its cost of capital, it operates at a loss. And this is why EVA is growing in popularity. It does not, by itself, tell us why a certain service does not add value or what to do about it. It does show which products, services, operations, or activities have unusually high value. Then we should ask ourselves, “What can we learn from these successes?”

Benchmarking for Competitiveness

Benchmarking assumes that being at least as good as the leader is a prerequisite to being competitive.

EVA (economic value added analysis) is a good start to assess the competitiveness of an enterprise in the global marketplace, but to it we must add benchmarking. Benchmarking is a tool that helps a firm tell whether or not it is globally competitive. Benchmarking assumes, correctly, that what one company does another company can always do as well. “Best performers” are often found in identical services or functions inside an organization, in competitor organizations, but also in organizations outside in the industry. Together, EVA and benchmarking provide the diagnostic tools needed to measure total-factor productivity and to manage it. They are examples of the new tools executives should understand to measure and manage what goes on inside the enterprise. Combined, they are the best measures we have so far available.

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