Sunday, March 8, 2009

A bit of Guidance for those left behind, after the cut, RIF, layoff, or whatever YourCo is calling it these days


Reality is when executives make decisions over which divisions to close, managers to shed, or what % of headcount to reduce they almost always do so with poor information. Worse yet, on the brink of making tough soon to be unpopular decisions, hatchet men tend to insulate themselves from those who can serve to better inform the decisions to be made. Why is this the case? Because in these times of business decay and financial erosion, decisions are purely financial and are made in the spirit of surviving, not thriving. The people that can best inform the go forward strategy might be expensive and may be targets in a downturn. And, because the decisions to cut are not grounded in execution reality, the information from the informed execution trenches is of little use compared to the simple need to obtain labor cost information.

Ok, its done. YourCo has cut deep, perhaps too deep. What do you do to remedy the situation and continue to survive and be relevant?

It doesn’t matter if you sit at the top, middle or bottom, in order for YourCo to credibly execute you have to execute collectively from “one view of the truth.” This “one view” needs to rationalize the lofty ambitions of the few with the actual organizational ability to execute of the many. After a deep cut the ability to execute is impaired by the resource reduction, but also by resource ineffectiveness. Now is the time that most employees act stunned, waiting for the other shoe to fall, are unable to navigate ambiguity, and even seek out their next moves for fear of imminent job loss. At risk is the continuing contribution of the passionate performers as they become mere worker bees taking a wait and see attitude.

If YourCo has let go of 25% of its work force it is unlikely that you will still be able to expose, convert, and retain customers at the same levels of performance that you previously had. But this doesn’t mean that people at the top won’t aspire to have their “teams” perform at the previous levels. We’ll save “Faith Based Execution” for another blog post.

It is critical that YourCo retains enough individual and organizational capacity to be creative, continue to innovate, and identify and solve the most relevant problems.

“The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks.” Wallace Stegner

Get everyone focused externally. Hopefully on something extremely relevant like, say your customers. Without them you are not relevant.

Here are 7 additional survival tips.

  1. Protect current revenue with your top customers by delighting them flawlessly and grow revenue in your non-top customers by differentiating yourself from competitors. Your competitors who may have previously had the lion share of the business may have become less effective or even gone away entirely
  2. Assess your capabilities, prioritize, and organize to execute (Perform an Execution Audit or better yet, have an outside consultant do this. Chances are you can not do this effectively, pre or post cut.)
  3. Identify execution gaps – accept them or credibly close them.
  4. Don’t lose your humanity and above all don’t lose your ability to sing.
  5. Renew customer and employee incentives
  6. Be authentic.
  7. Above all, have a sense of humor. There is enough tension in the workplace and economy. Smile, blow off steam and have a good time. If you survive you'll remember this time as the tough good old days that you worked through. And, if you don’t…. well, you’ll have had a more enjoyable time in the process. You’ll likely work with some of your colleagues and new formed friends in another capacity and context. Life is long, enjoy the ride.