Sunday, July 26, 2009

People Management- Miss-stakes!

What not to do when the times are tough…
Key learnings:
  1. Business heads too are human, and prone to committing errors
  2. They need to avoid certain mistakes to be able to survive tough times
Often, it is what you don’t do that impacts success, rather than what you do. Quite a few business heads have undone their good work with a few slip-ups here and there. Unfortunately, the condition of the economy hasn’t supported them. Mistakes that could have easily been ignored in good times appear bigger and uglier during a recession. Expecting the top brass to be error-free is both unfair and unrealistic. But there are certain mistakes that must be avoided to survive the tough times. Here is what business heads must be wary of:
Look before you leap
Difficult times compel individuals to take difficult actions. But what is tough to fathom is why those actions appear more desperate than deliberate. In this downturn too, managements have made quite a few impulsive and copycat decisions, which they will regret once the economy bounces back. Decisions have to be made diligently, particularly during tough times. Right from evaluating the source of information to a critical analysis of the worth of the decision, due-diligence should be the guiding principle.
Power corrupts
When in trouble, the more the number of friends and advisors one has the better the chances of surviving. Even though everyone agrees that networking, both social and professional, can help bail out individuals, business heads are chary of networking with their rank and file. Although the reverse should be the case, managements become more guarded and cloistered when times turn bad. Here is what can help correct the mistake:
  1. Involve everyone, right from a shop-floor worker to a C-level executive, in generating ideas, innovative methods and short-cuts
  2. Continue to delegate as before
  3. Be transparent

Also, do what US President Barack Obama does! Obama’s team hosts discussions on the internet to invite suggestions and opinions from different people. In addition to generating ideas, the responses enable them to evaluate public sentiments.

Hasty decisions

“No one ever downsized their way to greatness,” says a business analyst. Yet, most belt-tightening initiatives have been so severe that the possibility of bouncing back to normalcy when the economy rolls out is bleak. In trimming flab, organisations have cut so deep that some of the muscle has also been hacked. Getting back top performers, who have been treated poorly, is almost impossible. Another equally hasty action is implementing strict recruitment freezes.

A downturn is an excellent time to pick up good talent at competitive wages. Once this opportunity is lost, the ugly practice of poaching, and paying through one’s nose, will return! Also, in organisations where layoffs have been extensive, those who stay will be grateful only for a few days! Soon employees will realise that they must now shoulder the workload of those laid off. Their disappointment and dissent will be just the beginning of troubles to follow! An effective way out is to try different alternatives to laying off.


With organisations reducing the numbers on their rolls, meeting the needs of customers will be a huge task. So, however tempted managements may be to pick up the competitors’ ‘uncared for’ customers, a downturn is not an opportune time to expand business. With fewer employees, there is no guarantee that customers, who shifted loyalty because they have been treated poorly, will receive any better treatment. Moreover, expecting teams with reduced manpower to be enthused about new business is irrational. A better way would be to treat existing customers with extra care. When customers stand testimony to how well an organisation took care of them despite the downturn, there can be no better advertising than that.

Do what can be done

The ‘more with less’ frenzy is such that managements stretch their fewer resources over heavy tasks without recognising that every work team will have only limited elasticity. A business consultant observes, “I have found that much of the ‘more’ is work that provides no value at the end of the day.” Business heads must scrutinise every task and determine its ROI, and only those with good returns should be retained, refitted into the workflow and delegated. Moreover, an employee performing five meaningful tasks will not feel as overworked as someone handling fewer, but non-contributory tasks.

Everyone makes mistakes, even business heads. But making the above-mentioned ones is more than a slip-up.
Ref: TheManageMentor.

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