29 Jun 2009  Sharpening Your Skills

Leading Change

Nothing like a global recession to test your change-management skills. We dig deep into the Working Knowledge vault to learn about building a business in a down economy, motivating the troops, and other current topics.

 

Sharpening Your Skills dives into the HBS Working Knowledge archives to bring together articles on ways to improve your business skills.

Questions to be Answered:

  • How do I build my business in this environment?
  • What should leaders communicate?
  • My organization doesn't have the fire it needs. What can I do?
  • What are key enterprise risk-management strategies?

How do I build my business in this environment?

Building Businesses in Turbulent Times

An economic crisis is a charter for business leaders to rewrite and rethink how they do business, says professor Lynda M. Applegate. The key: Don't think retrenchment; think growth. Key concepts include:

  • Companies that survive the financial crisis by identifying and exploiting innovation will serve as economic growth engines in the future—and will be the industry leaders of tomorrow.
  • This is a time of unprecedented opportunity to rethink offerings, markets, business processes, and organizational structure—and to improve them to achieve growth.
  • Success will depend on leaders who are able to stabilize the company as they identify and exploit opportunities, find new market niches, create innovative new offerings, and restructure and reposition.

What should leaders communicate?

Uncompromising Leadership in Tough Times

As companies batten down the hatches, we need leaders who do not compromise on standards and values that are essential in flush times. Fortunately, such leaders do exist. Their insights can help other organizations weather the current crisis, says Professor Michael Beer. Key concepts include:

  • The CEOs in high commitment, high performance (HCHP) organizations are quite different in personality, background, and leadership style. But they are similar in what they see as the purpose of the firm.
  • Among employees at large, there is a danger that commitment to an organization can undermine work-life balance. Successful CEOs are good role models.
  • In addition to open and honest communication and continued investment in HCHP management practices, corporations need to develop an a priori set of policies in advance of the crisis that will minimize damage from restructuring and downsizing and maintain employee dignity and commitment.

My organization doesn't have the fire it needs. What can I do?

Book Excerpt: A Sense of Urgency

Urgency can be a positive force in companies, says leadership expert and professor emeritus John P. Kotter. His book A Sense of Urgency makes that conviction clear. Our excerpt describes how leaders might skillfully transform a crisis into an organizational motivator for the better. Key concepts include:

  • Always think of crises as potential opportunities, and not only dreadful problems that automatically must be delegated to the damage control specialists.
  • Plans and actions should always focus on others' hearts as much or more than their minds.
  • If you are at a middle or low level in an organization and see how a crisis can be used as an opportunity, identify and then work with an open-minded and approachable person who can take the lead.

What are key enterprise risk management strategies?

Business Summit: Enterprise Risk Management

Risk management is a key to sustained firm growth, says Professor Robert S. Kaplan. Key ingredients to a successful risk management program include the proper culture, clear parameters, discipline, measurement, and accountability.