Supply Chain Urgency and Economic Fear, Cycles Really

Danger-Supply-Chain-Economy-320x406.jpgWhy are phrases such as “especially in the current economy” so in vogue in everything from analyst research to white papers and presentations? The phrase has become part of our lexicon, but that baffles me because we’re not just in the “current economy”, we are moving forward in an ever-changing, global economy.

The phrase tries to highjack the inherent urgency the macro-economic news creates.  The “bad economy” bogey man is one of the best advertised products since the pet rock.  It gets a lot of free press.

As a manager and leader through quite a few economic cycles, I have seen this many times.  One of the things I find myself spending energy on is reassuring people the world is not coming to an end, the sky is not falling and the sun will rise tomorrow.

When the business world gets the “bad economy” flu it becomes very risk-adverse and starts to make decisions based on the perceived urgency.  Some of these decisions are knee-jerk reactions aiming to slash costs, like laying off employees and dramatically reducing inventory.  Ironically these are the same decisions they failed to manage well during the “good times.”  The question becomes how much of the urgency is real and how much is a smoke screen for bad processes?

The best companies, like the best people, thrive in tough times and in good times.  This is because they are innately sure of themselves and their mission.  They have a cultural, management and leadership bedrock which allows them to calmly respond and push forward despite challenges.  They don’t lose faith because they are self-confident.

This self-confidence allows people and companies to ignore the “fight or flight” response and execute more calmly with a sense of “managed urgency.”

And that is my real point: how do you create within yourself and your company a sense of managed urgency, not a mood of desperation in response to external forces.  How do you build a team of people that bring an internal urgency to work each day because they have confidence in your leadership, your company, your products and also themselves?

You can read hundreds of white papers and analyst research on the best strategies in a “down economy,” but the real solution is well within your grasp, independent of macro-economic forces.  Urgency is a great change agent, but it can only be consistently leveraged after it has been baked into the culture of your organization.

It’s true that, as an individual, you alone can’t fix the economy; but you can stay the course, have confidence in yourself and be a leader. Why is that the way to go? Because, in my experience, the sun is going to rise tomorrow, and we have work to do.