This is the second in a series of posts on leading in a downturn economy.
In the January 2009 issue of the HBR, Donald Sull of the London Business School writes "How to Thrive in Turbulent Markets" (pp.78-88). In a piece full of advice and boxing analogies, Sull notes that thriving in such an economic downturn requires leaders and companies both to absorb the blows and be agile enough to take advantage of emerging opportunities. The problem is that often times leaders often retreat into such a defensive absorption role that they forget that there are opportunities (offense) as well that must be exploited to ensure a strong comeback.
Measures of Absorption (defense). Have...
--Diversified cash flow lines
--Unique tangible assets
--Powerful business partners
--Low fixed costs
Measures of Agility (offense):
--Exploit change (my note: if you get lemons…make lemonade)
--Use the sense of urgency to move the company forward. (everyone unites faster when faced with a common threat)
--Attract entrepreneurial leaders.
--Reallocate cash and talent across units.
This is an article worth getting for all managers and fashioning a hard discussion around what your company is doing both to absorb the blows and counter-punch.
By the way, Sull likes Mohammad Ali as the best boxing example of his model—an ability to absorb or take a punch and the ability to be agile and throw an offensive blow.
Remember Ali’s famous chant: Float like a butterfly,sting like a bee. Good advice for leaders today.