HBR on managing the downturn

I see Harvard Business Review has got out a section on ‘Unconventional Wisdom in a Downturn‘ from their team of bloggers. It offers some good pointers, but not all, so be careful!  

‘Protect Strategic Expenditures’ say Robert Kaplan and David Norton

Yes of course it’s foolish to kill efforts and investments that are important to medium- to long-term performance, assuming you can survive in the meantime! But during good times, many organisations raced after all kinds of exciting opportunities like children grabbing more sweets than they can eat. Two widespread problems:

  1. They could never take all those opportunities, because none ever got the full effort and investment needed. Better in the words of Steve Covey to ‘land one plane at a time’ and build a strong position before shifting effort to the next. Not doing so means many organisations now have a load of half-baked initiatives, most of which never should have started and never will be finished – our old friend ‘initiative overload’.
  2. The optimism of good times means many ‘strategic’ investments never were as attractive as they seemed. Even if they might have made sense in strong market conditions, they are now dogs – and someone should have asked about that possibility in the first place.

  So … the reality is that many ‘strategic investments’ should be killed [and should never have started]. Often, a better term for these is ‘CEO’s pet projects’. In the project described in my strategic recovery post, much of the trouble had been caused by just such a pampered pet, and the CEO eventually came to see it had to be put down. Meanwhile, an important IT investment to radically improve processing accuracy and cut costs was about to be cut, but we got it reprieved.

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