The Best Defense is a Great Offense
by Sharon Flemings

During the “March Madness” of the college basketball season, teams currently in contention continue to work and improve both their offensive and defensive games. Coaches and players both review game video of themselves and their opponents. They review statistics on every imaginable combination of factors contributing to both failure and success. And, they are assessing their playbooks, trying to fine-tune the plays that provide the greatest potential for winning. Each day, coaches and players are taking steps to improve their performance – even in incremental amounts – knowing that small changes can make the difference and provide big wins. What changes are you making in your “playbook” to prepare for the “championship” (future)?

Current economic challenges are certainly posing some of the greatest challenges for organizations in many decades. For some industries, we are seeing the worst conditions ever. Management is having a harder time creating return for investors as customers decrease their spending. Employees are increasingly concerned about job security. Everywhere we look there is a mood of doom and gloom.

In times such as these, it’s tempting to hunker down for the duration, and the news is filled with stories of organizations doing just that - cutting costs to the bone, and laying off employees. While this strategy might seem like a reasonable approach to weather the current turmoil, this is the equivalent of a basketball team only working on their defensive game. Particularly in these challenging times, it is critical for organizations to continue working on both their offensive and defensive strategies.

While defensive strategies that might be employed include various cost-cutting measures, it is important to consider carefully which alternatives make the most sense for each organization’s circumstances. Additionally, it is important to consider which actions will hamper the “offensive game”. For example, while payroll costs are the greatest expense in any organization, the impacts of cutting employees can have long-term negative consequences in lost expertise, rehiring and re-training costs. Further, lost “tribal knowledge”, if processes are not documented, can lead to chaos once the tide turns and the economy (and sales) are off and running again.

In these times, “offensive” maneuvers cannot be ignored as they are critical in positioning your organization for the future. Here are some “offensive” moves to consider when determining which “plays” you will keep in your playbook:

Cross training – During times when workloads are lighter and working environment less frantic, take advantage of opportunities to cross-train employees. There are several benefits to this:

·          Keeps employees fully engaged and contributing to the organization
·          Increases employee morale
·          Provides opportunities for their personal growth and development
·          Promotes innovative new ways of working as a result of fresh perspectives
·          Provides maximum flexibility for the organization to distribute tasks around
      the organization if needed when business picks up again

Consider cross-training radically different roles (e.g. IT and accounting) to build better understanding across your organization and allow employees to see life “from the other side”.

Test business process changes – This is a great time to test some of those process changes you know need to be made. Employees now have the opportunity to absorb, understand, and practice the change in a less stressful and hectic environment. This gives all stakeholders the opportunity to practice the new process slowly, and make any necessary adjustments. Once we are back “in the game”, the new process will be second nature to your employees.

Skills development – encourage employees to attend conferences, workshops or other educational opportunities to develop new, leading edge skills in areas that will be valuable in the future. Developing skills during slow times allows people to practice and integrate these new capabilities into their work environment, thereby realizing the investment in the education. During the good times, people either do not have time to develop skills or are too busy to use them in their work, losing benefit of the skills and the value of the investment.

Evaluate your technology – you are likely getting by on, and avoiding investment in, your current technologies. While reducing the cost of technologies is often a first step in controlling expenses, this is an opportune time to evaluate and invest in new technologies that will allow your organization to thrive in the rebound. There are myriad new technologies available to support all aspects of a business’ processes, and many are being offered at introductory or reduced rates. While you have time, consider evaluating how these new applications and technologies might help your organization capitalize on opportunities when the good times return. This is a great time to introduce, train on, and incorporate them into your daily operations.

Re-strategize your investment priorities – Take a look at the strategies and priorities from 6-12 months ago, and determine whether these have changed. If so, re-think the investments that will be required, resources needed, organizational strategies, and adjustments to goals. This simple act gives you an opportunity to look forward to the better days that are certainly coming.

What things are you doing to prepare your offense? Share your best ideas on my blog


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