Strap It On: Competing In An Economic Quagmire

CNN, today, reported “a key measure of consumer confidence dropped in May to the lowest level in 16 years, as Americans grew more concerned about their jobs and more pessimistic about business conditions. The New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 57.2, the lowest level since October 1992.” This is either the genesis of an economic apocalypse or it’s the perfect storm for lean, mean competitors. I prefer to think it’s time to gear up for strong competition. The strong, intelligent, strategic, agile, and innovative will survive and thrive in this economy.

It’s time for every organization – business, governmental and non-profit – to open its playbook and check the bench. Dust off your strategic plan and begin asking the tough questions:

  • if we have to navigate a recession for a year or two while fending off global competition, do we have the right people on the bench?
  • are we manifesting our mission every day and staying true to our core ideology?
  • do we stick to what we’re deeply passionate about and execute as best we can?
  • is there anything we can do with respect to workflow and processes to gain some efficiencies and improve the quality of our work-product?
  • how can we harness loyal customers to grow?
  • are our people properly trained and motivated? Do I risk losing the most valuable people on my team if we cultivate a climate of fear?
  • what do my competitors do that I might emulate and incorporate into my production/services?
  • what can I do with my branding, marketing and sales process to reach new markets and customers?
  • what can I do with my supply-chain to reduce cost and inventory?
  • which of my partners can I turn to to develop new distribution and sales channels?
  • what can we do to surprise the market and our opponents? (think of all the clever last-minute plays you’ve seen in college football…those that allowed a smaller club to defeat their much larger and stronger opponents)

All-Process Team

I’m no expert in all of those areas (nobody is) but I do know that process is integral to each and every one. For every core business practice listed above, it’s incumbent upon leaders to convene their managers and begin acting on any available data and desire to improve the game-plan.

If you drag your feet and hem and haw, you’ll have been complicit in the erosion of your own market share. We still, after all, operate in a $14 trillion marketplace and this recession will only tackle those who aren’t prepared. You can either avoid the tackle by aggressively participating in your own offense or you can rest on your laurels and hope for the best. I, for one, think it’s time (if you haven’t already) to call in the big-guns, stack the back-field and plow straight up the middle where your opposition is weakest. Yet another reason to harness workflow and business process improvements for reasons other than information technology. IT is a player in this game. It’s just one of the players on the field – as crucial to your strategic game-plan as all of your other assets.

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