Monday, December 8, 2008

Option B

These are unprecedented times . Many companies and individuals find themselves in situations with no past reference points to serve as a compass or a 'how to survive this' guide . Navigating unchartered territory without a map is an adventure for a few and terrifying for most .

Companies predictably are looking at all ways to cut costs - ranging from ostentatious expenses that should have anyway been axed without waiting for a downturn to the fairly ridiculous e.g for how many hours in a day should the photocopier kept operational (in addition to figuring how to grow business the employees of this company would need to devise a complex schedule on how to use the photocopier while adhering to the diktat of senior managers and yet not compromise work ) . As a friend aptly said 'no one's thinking about the cost of time spent in these endless cost cutting meetings ' . 

Service/IT companies have people 'on the bench' , manufacturing companies are shutting factories for several days . Companies that are not laying off people but need to scale down output could look at creative ways to engage the resources and energy of their people in contributing to their organization and communities . 
e.g :
- Create cross functional teams to work on specific projects of relevance to the business
- Devote quality time to work on innovation
- Contribute time to teaching 
- Initiate drives to clean up specific areas
- Volunteer time to specific NGOs / initiatives - not in an aimless , meandering sort of way. But in a professional way with tangible , specific outcomes and timelines .

You get the drift . The possibilities are endless depending on the skills available and the unique challenges to which they can be constructively applied .

This is a win-win strategy for all involved - the employee , the company , the community and the wider world . For those who seek a business benefit to any action - your customers are likely to think better of you for making a positive contribution to your community .

These days the conversation inevitably veers towards the economic situation . Many seem to be in a race to make the most dire predictions . That way one can appear prescient few days , weeks , months later should events head in the direction of one's prediction . Instead of responding to the economic situation with a mix of fear , horror and panic there is the alternative of making the most of the challenging times .

Event after event shows us how interconnected the world is . Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not - we influence (if not create ) our world equally through action and inaction. 

When the history of business in this period is written what will it be ? 

a. Companies generally recoiled in horror , laid off people , cut salaries , reduced focus on innovation . Their employees felt unsure , reduced levels of trust in the management , stressed out. Having dried the innovation pipelines they had nothing new or meaningful to offer to their customers . Which in turn perpetuated the reduced sales and the gloomy outlook .

b. At least some companies had the courage to redefine their purpose , their relationships with the wider world of which they are a part . Having engaged their employees in meaningful initiatives they came out of the phase stronger , more confident . And in fact these companies not just survived the downturn . They were instrumental in catalyzing growth .

I'm hoping it will be option 'b' not just for a few - but many companies .


anand said...

u are a natural management scholar! great depth in wat u write..

sometimes wonder how ur brain is wired or is it a cognitive choice to think the way u do..its all about delayed gratification, sense of purpose, super ordinate goals, strength of character, big stones first, focus on roots..hmmm..

option B for sure..look at wat jim collins says in good2great..or covey in principle centered leadership..

wen d tsunami waters recede, it is then we know who stayed n who didn't..

good effort..
well written..


Arvind said...

My dear Savitha,

For one, organisations can at least refine their concepts of cost cutting. But they don't seem to be doing that either. Actually costs are not incurred, they are caused. The costs of cost cutting may end up being very high, the way many are going. Costs need to be managed rather than being cut arbitrarily.


Arvind Kaul

anand said...

arvind, dat's a good insight.. costs are caused not incurred..thanks..