It’s just the sort of big strategic question that management consultants love to tackle, and sure enough, today sees the release of a new report from the consultants’ trade organisation, the MCA. Pithily titled 'Dealing with the Downturn', the study eschews the popular approach of picking over the bones of what has happened and who is to blame in favour of a more pragmatic – if rather less entertaining – look at what management should be concentrating on over the coming months.
It’s an especially important question in view of the fact that so many of today’s younger senior managers may not have experienced hard times before and could be uncertain of how to act. Here are a few edited highlights from their findings:
Leaders need to lead. Sounds obvious, but troubled times are when great leaders can really make a difference. So don’t hide away in your office with a wet towel wrapped round your head, trying to think your way out of the problem. Get out there and talk to people. See and be seen, tell your employees what’s happening and how you are dealing with it. If there’s bad news to impart, get on with it before the rumour mill goes into overdrive. And don’t panic – prompt but considered decisions are required, not knee-jerk over-reaction.
Look at your strategy. What has worked up until now may very well not work in future. Prosperity may have to be replaced by survival as your immediate goal. What are your customers and clients thinking? How are they going to react and what will their new priorities be? If you can answer these questions, it should help you decide on your own way forward.
Adapt and survive. There will be opportunities as well as threats ahead for the firms that adapt most quickly to the changing economic climate. Make sure that dealing with the impact of the bad stuff doesn’t blind you to the chances of stealing a march on the competition.
Look after the right people. Now is the time to love up your key employees, and maybe take the chance of reallocating or even getting rid of some of the underperformers. You knew that, right? Well how about this – you should be nice your suppliers too, because businesses these days are more reliant on them than ever. Trying to strong-arm suppliers into cutting their prices may be appealing, but it's also short-sighted and dangerous.
They also have one last piece of advice - the government isn’t going to solve the problem for you. But we can’t believe that anyone who is smart enough to be reading MT would have thought for a minute that it could...
In today's bulletin:
King readies the troops for a long march
Dealing with the downturn
Lehman CDS crisis: A Complete Damp Squib
Entrepreneurs plan to grin and bear it
MT's Little Ray of Sunshine: (No) Panic Room