In these times of recession, a change is certainly gonna come… For the companies feeling the hit (not referring to Sam Cooke), there is plenty of talk of cutting budgets and payroll (though much less of the latter in France). In such environments, one speaks of light at the end of the tunnel with caution, especially if the gouging is severe. Speaking of light, sustainable development typically takes a less sustainable position in the hierarchy of expenses.
On the other end of the scale, there are those more fortunate companies that are planning major breakthroughs, profiting from a reservoir of cash and investing strategically and/or opportunistically to reap serious market share gains.
Then there are those companies flush in cash, investing strategically and that should also be taking the opportunity to eliminate dead wood.
As many managers cut dollars, it seems at times that as many are eliminating cents and plenty of good sense, too. Whether in a cash-strapped or cash-rich company, the need or opportunity to slash unproductive expenses, in my opinion, must be accompanied by two key actions in order to sustain an optimal customer satisfaction level throughout the downturn:
1) A clear, consistent and frequent (not necessarily regular) internal communication plan to keep everybody on board down the chain of management with the strategic thrusts and associated cuts. This assumes a clear vision. The visibility of [an aligned] top management is critical to communicate the vision, receive feedback (according to the company culture) and create unity of purpose. When given the right resources, a well constructed internal intranet network (with web 2.0 functionality) is surely an interesting solution across a larger organisation — according to company culture.
2) And, in order to ensure optimal execution, there must be a culling of the unnecessary tasks and actions, often times associated with the prior, fatter budgets. This is important to do in order that the remaining work and allocated resources are that much more effective. The decision NOT to do is as strategic as what you decide to do.
The first point above is about genuine leadership and getting the team behind you. The second point revolves around the strategic execution of the plan. These two actions are vital because, especially for the larger (older) businesses, at the heart of the issue is change management. As we all know, fear and psychology have generously contributed to the current predicament. And, going through the changes, employees at all levels experience fear (at one or other stage of the SARAH principle: Shock-Anger-Rejection-Acceptance-Hope/Healing/Help). Consequently, they will start to act out of selfishness and defensiveness which inevitably creates breakdowns, inefficiencies and the dreaded internal politics. Among the many typical faults made by top management are laying out a strategic plan, but not aligning expectations and creating too many exceptions. Are the individual Goals & Objectives of the people in the different business units and functions updated and aligned? Another common mistake is dogmatically and institutionally cutting budgets (by percentages) rather than involving the teams to find where and how to cut. Getting the team to own the solution (strategy) means having them own the problem.
This line from Cooke’s song magically resumes the process of change management at the individual level:
“Oh, there been times when I thought I could not last for long, But now I think I’m able to carry on…”