Management for a Business Upturn
By Dale Bruder, the Strategy Coach
The business of business is momentum. Business is a race.
Business is action. Managing action challenges managers and owners to
re calibrate thinking processes to account for the fact that every company
goes through it's own stages of the business race. Each business and
every manager encounters new competitive pressures, new global realities,
and new customer demands constantly.
In this current position of the business sine wave (the
term business cycle is a false descriptor) where the general perception
is sluggish revenues; business managers must adopt action management
techniques to sustain their competitive advantage.
Those who coast through this time will find their market
positions severely eroded when the business wave rises again. Vitalized
competitors and aggressive new enterprises with action plans are, today,
taking over markets others established. To doze, to wait for the next
upturn is to give away hard won market share.
Two distinct courses of action are required of companies
that will thrive in the next rise of the business wave. The actions
businesses must take are to either sprint or high jump to the front
of the pack.
A sprint is an activity of short duration
and low complexity. Outsourcing a single function is a typical sprint.
So is functional downsizing or bringing a new product to market.
A high jump is a rapid action made to
improve business performance. High jumps are highly complex, of short
duration and are decisive. High jumps include a merger or an acquisition,
a radical restructuring or a project aimed at corporate revitalization.
Both events require an investment of senior management
commitment, two or more full time employees and allocation of specific
The action plan for a Sprint covers these areas:
Set aggressive weekly and monthly milestones targeting
quick wins to gain early credibility.
Guarantee sufficient resources to sustain both the
action program and normal customer service levels - customers have
the least patience and you have the least time.
Establish the action leader as the single point of
accountability for the action's success.
Set and monitor short-term performance targets for
the action team.
Focus all communication on excitement and speed of
Continuously update progress - performance versus
the target goal; break it down so everyone knows the weak links.
Invest in training, so employees can upgrade their
skills and move with lightening speed.
Reduce development time by reviewing rapid prototyping
approaches to system development.
Set - and keep - stretch goals.
The action plan for a High Jump includes these
Prioritize efforts based on speed of delivery and
projected market impact, eliminating or deferring less important efforts.
Organize task forces dedicated to specific action
areas - in a merger, for example, system integration, people selection,
and organization design.
Help the action leader adopt a decisive, directive,
hands-on style. As in the case of a sprint, when the stakes are high
and time is short, people will expect to be told what to do.
Be prepared to deal decisively with resisters.
Deliver action-related news - good and bad - honestly
Use frequent communication devices, the system has
to be faster than the rumor machine. Display a countdown graphic in
Implement existing employment policies without compromising
or taking shortcuts.
Spot and avoid duplication of effort that results
from integration. Save time and money by doing things once.
Recognize that the first information-technology priority
is business continuity and not systems improvement.
Use tracking to keep everyone aware of how the program
is doing today.
Action management is a skill that keeps companies, their
investors and owners, customers, employees and communities thriving
in any point on the business sine wave. Every competitive pressure,
global reality and customer demand becomes energy for action. Developing
the pragmatic thinking processes of action managers is a demand for
today's business environment and a requirement in future successes