The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times


We are facing the melt-down of the Western banking system - for who knows what reason.

Obscene salaries and bonuses coupled with quarterly results thinking could have some bearing on the mess we find the economy in. So could the confusion between growth and greed.

Whatever the reason, for most of us in business, the larger economic situation is out of our control, so we have to find ways to STAY IN BUSINESS until sanity prevails.

I know from personal experience of working with teams over a twenty year period that there are a million ways of saving money; finding more efficient ways of doing things and even coming up with ideas for new products or services - yes - even during a recession.

Some Do's and Don'ts

DON'T PANIC and start frantically laying off good staff.

DO acknowledge a few facts:

FACT 1:  The hierarchy is dead.  We no longer have the time to work in such a cumbersome fashion; we have to get as much information and decision making to the front end of our organisations as quickly as we can.  Hierarchies create power-bases; power bases stifle speed of response and creativity.

FACT 2:  Our employees are our only competitive advantage; few organisations have any products or services that their competitors don't already have. And even if they do have some magical product or service that no-one else has - that advantage will not last for more than a millisecond. 

FACT 3:  Today's employees are demanding to be included in decisions which affect them, and in a world where there is already a huge shortage of skilled people, if we don't involve our people, it will be at our peril because someone else will. And since it costs approximately two and a half times a person's salary to replace them, hanging onto our good people makes excellent business sense.

The 4 x 1's of good business:

a. Involve - get people together and be honest with them. Ask them for ideas and input - after all - their jobs and futures are on the line too - it is in their interests to find efficiencies

b. Improve - ask the question - what are we doing in 4 steps that we could do in 3 or even 2. And what are we doing that we could illuminate altogether?

c. Innovate - ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas - there is no such thing as a stupid idea

d. Implement - we don't have years to implement ideas - we have weeks - get going

When I present at conferences I tell my favourite story...

‘An organization realized it needed to put on a night shift. They chose the men and the manager and got going. The manager stayed with the shift until he felt everyone knew what they were doing and he was comfortable that they were achieving target - more or less.

A couple of years passed - the results on the nightshift were OK - not brilliant but not terrible either.

The manager decided to pop in to see his guys one night and was staggered at what he saw.

Once the guys were without a manager - the first decision they made was - we don't need all of us to get these results - how about half of us sleep for the first half of the night while the other guys manage production, and then we'll swap.

After a while someone came up with an even better idea.

Why don't we use all that scrap material over in the corner and create a business on the side. So they did - one half of the team ran the company production and the other half ran their private business. They even a company in which each were share-holders. And this had gone on for a couple of years.

Management did what management would do. They fired everyone on the nightshift.

What a shame they hadn't thought to ask the nightshift how they had achieved these results, and turned the whole company over to the same production processes - and made everyone in the company a shareholder.

Your employees know where the waste is - they know where the improvements are. But we have to make it worth their while to let us know - after all, the traditional way of working and managing people is to find ways to GET RID OF PEOPLE - not a great deal of incentive then for employees to come up with ideas then!!

Get creative and get inclusive. Make it worth your employee's while to let you know how things can be done better!

‘At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope that it can be done, then it is done and everyone wonders why it took so long!'



Ann Andrews CSP specialises in working with high performing teams and showing managers how to deal with poor performance.

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