Posts Tagged ‘downturn’

Use the downturn wisely, prepare for the future upturn

February 17, 2009

John Baldoni in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post suggests that companies should be looking at preparing their organisation and its employees for when the economy starts on the upward trend.

So rather than sitting around moaning at a lack of demand and laying off workers or having enforced shutdowns (as in the automotive industry), managers should instead focus on activities which they would not normally have time to do, but nonetheless can be benefitial to the organisation.

John Baldoni gives four key suggestions for leaders on how to prepare their organisations:

  • Master your operations,
  • Use the downtime wisely,
  • Invest in your people,
  • Spread some hope throughout the organization.

To master your operations organisations need to work at understanding their strengths and weaknesses, so they know where to improve and what strengths they can leverage to greater use. Examine everything about your product offering and what your competitors are doing, can you learn anything from this? Secure your financial position to enable investment in the future, this may involve cost cutting exercises but could also be through divesting business units which are not core to the organisation’s strategic direction. As Baldoni says, “In short, get your house in order.”

Use the downtime wisely, with a reduced workload your employees can spend time to think about the activities they do on a day-to-day basis, what could be done better, does it even need to be done? Baldoni suggests organising brainstorming sessions and strategic planning exercises. And to encourage idea generation, it is in the downturn that organisations can be innovative and have potentially revolutionary products hitting the market just as the up-turn hits full steam. At an organisation I have worked for, they set one morning a week as a time to work as a team/section to come up with new ideas and reduce waste effort, this is the sort of thing I think organisations should be doing all the time and not just in times of trouble.

Invest in your people, with employees less busy now is an ideal time to invest in training them up with the latest skills. Apart from emerging with a more capable workforce,  which in theory should improve performance, organisations will also, Baldoni says, “demonstrate a commitment that has a better chance of being returned when the good times do.”

Spread some hope throughout the organization, Baldoni suggests leaders should “control what you can control and live on.” So, rather than dwelling on all the negative things, of which there is likely to be lots, they should concentrate on things they have control over and can make a positive contribution. In other words, have clear goals and objectives for the short term, work with purpose, not in hope that nothing bad will happen.

What does Richard think about this?

It would be nice to have some positive news from organisations for a change… Those organisations that do use this slow-period wisely to: take stock, reorganise, train and invest for the future, are the ones which are likely to survive for a long time yet, and if they are lucky out of this downturn might come that ‘killer idea’ which revolutionises their sector and sets them up for a long period of success.

I understand, however, that for a lot of companies the lack of credit availability is severely impacting on their ability to function when combined with severely diminished sales, in this situation it is imperative to undertake Baldoni’s first two suggestions, these will guide the way to scaling down their organisation to their restricted circumstances.

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