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November 2008
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December 2008

Crisis Management - Who is Missing the Point?

I was sent an article this week that showed how executive priorities had shifted over a three month period.  In a chart with the title, Crisis Management, it depicted the results of a survey of global executives conducted the Conference Board in July/August and October 2008. They were as follows:

Crisis Management

It was certainly noteworthy to see how executive priorities have changed as a result of the credit crunch and the downturn in the economy. Even more interesting, though, was the headline, “Executives Shift to Survival Mode: Workforce Issues Move to Back Burner as Financial Worries Take Precedence.”

Although the piece I was sent wasn’t from the Wall Street Journal itself, I was intrigued to see that this headline was attributed to that august newspaper, so somewhat sceptically I checked on the web. Sure enough, the extract was taken verbatim from a Wall Street Journal article written by Cari Tuna dated 20th November. However, I want to know if I am the only one who smells anything fishy here. (Sorry – I couldn’t resist the pun!)

Seriously though, is it just me, or does this article – by one of the world’s most reputable newspapers – not point to a major flaw in either our perception of business leadership, or a poor understanding of their responsibilities by business leaders, or both?

Firstly, I would have said that the top three October challenges are all people management (i.e. workforce) issues, for surely no organisation can meet any of those criteria without engaged employees or the strategic alignment of an organisation in which everyone is “singing off the same song sheet.”  So how then could anyone in their right mind justify the headline about workforce issues moving to the “back burner”? 

Secondly, are these three challenges not the perennial challenges which face any executive and, if so, why have they only now come to the top of the priority list? I find it incredible that creating a more responsive organisation was only 7th in the priorities in July when we keep hearing so much about the pace of change and the need to be more responsive in order to remain competitive in a global market. Indeed that has been the justification for so much reorganising and right-sizing over the last decade or more, one cannot be anything other than amazed.

Yet perhaps this explains why more than 60% of all change initiatives fail and it would thus seem I am  right to say that executives fail to understand that effective people management is the key to organisational success. Is that not the real cause of the crisis or am I the one who is missing the point?

60,000 Daily Reasons to Rethink!

Did you hear the news last Friday? More than one million people in the USA have lost their jobs in the last three months. One million job–losses - that's a lot of jobs!

One million people losing their jobs in three months works out at an average of 333,334 per month or, (assuming a 22 day working month,) 15,000 people per day, or 1,875 per hour per 8 hour day – mind-numbing figures. If one assumes an average household of four people, this means that 1,333,336 people a month or 60,000 per day are being directly affected by layoffs.  If this was a disease it would certainly qualify as an epidemic!

The worst thing about epidemics is the fear they create, and here too, the definition seems appropriate. 60,000 people a day losing a significant proportion of their spending power as a consequence of redundancy undoubtedly has fear-inducing ripple effect as other people think:

  • What effect will this have on my business or income?
  • Will I be next?
  • I’d better be careful and spend less, just in case

It thus seems self-evident that mass lay-offs or a redundancy epidemic on this scale simply exacerbates and compounds the downturn and makes any recession so much worse. Yet the practice is not confined just to the US and is clearly pervasive. But why?

I have just launched a new website probing this question, showing why mass layoffs are counter-productive, even for the organisations that resort to them, and putting forward some viable alternatives that would be better for everyone. To learn more just click here or go to  There are at least 60,000 good reasons a day to do so.

Maslow, Happiness, Employee Engagement & Value

“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about.” Joseph Campbell 

Whatever philosophical debates that statement might open up, it certainly could be argued that in a modern work context people have lost any sense of the “rapture associated with being alive.” At a time when working conditions are arguably better than at any time in recorded history, employee disengagement is an increasing problem. 

This may be partly because this is likely the first time that employee engagement has ever been deemed important enough to even warrant measuring. Yet disengagement is said to cost billions. Even then, however, it is the trend that is the major concern. It is clearly a problem we need to solve. So how do we begin?

Let us for a moment forget the questions that have plagued philosophers and thinkers for centuries, and the complexity of human nature, and just accept Maslow’s theory that the higher up the hierarchy of needs one moves the greater the chance for happiness at work and the  “rapture” that may be equated with it.  

If that is true, then logic dictates the inverse must also be true: the more one moves down the hierarchy of needs the less propensity there is for happiness. So the same logic would suggest it makes more sense for employers to look to meet the higher needs of their people, rather than their more basic needs. Ergo!

Maslow Engagement & Effectiveness

Any organisation looking to engage its people should prioritise its response in the reverse order to Maslow’s hierarchy. This is why the concept of valuing people is so important: it creates the mindset to do just that, in a way that nothing else does!

To find out more about why please download the FREE executive summary of my white paper, "Lighting the Fuse" from my website.