Jim Collins, the author of the management books Built to Last and Good to Great (both highly recommended by Resolve!) has been in the process of undertaking research on how companies negotiate through turbulent times.
Whilst Collins’ research tends to focus on the corporate sector and large US based companies, it does yield important lessons and principles for the not for profit sector.
His research on this topic thus far has turned up some important issues for all organisations to consider. He has found (using historical performance as a guide) that organisations get through tough economic times by:
1. Depending on their “Moorings”— having clear core values as an organization. These Core Values provide the underlying ideals or principles as to why the organisation exists. It is when times are tough that organisations need to know what they stand for, otherwise they will be tossed around in their circumstances and decision making.
2. Understanding that the quality of staff is critical for the survival of the organisation. While in difficult times many organisations cut staff, others intentionally seek to grow their staff, particularly those who are really talented in their field.
In Collins’ opinion the right staff to have are those that don’t need to be managed. He believes that the moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone you’ve made a hiring mistake.
Secondly, the right people to have are those that don’t think they have a job, instead they have responsibilities. He likens this to rock climbing, where he does not have a job to (just) belay, but it is actually his responsibility that if they get into trouble he does not let his partner down.
3. Understanding that turbulence can be your friend. Often good and creative solutions can be developed out of really difficult circumstances. In hard times organisations are forced to look closely at issues that they might not otherwise, and end up making decisions for the long term benefit of the organisation.
4. Focusing on not just the micro issues but keeping an eye on the macro—where are we as an overall organisation or economy headed? Organisations can sometime lose the forest for the trees.
The conditions we face at the moment are very different to most people’s experience, so it will be important for all organisations to reflect on the challenges that face them and be prepared to take action!