By Jon Armstrong, Managing Director, Simpler Europe

The financial status of a business has become more public since the recession, where redundancies were high and bonuses and salary rises were capped in order to save money. Now, businesses have been forced to create ways in which to run more effectively and efficiently, in a sense doing more with less. Redundancies were rife in 2009, but if businesses think more strategically, preventing rather than having to solve the crisis when it happens — they could not only save jobs, but create jobs, save money, time and energy.

There are three dimensions of a business that must be focused on: Purpose, Process and People.


Business management should never be in denial of what is happening to their company. Employees can smell fear and need to be addressed with care, concern and optimism. Displaying how the company will be able to gain a stronger foothold in the market or how they plan to achieve a solution to their issue will be viewed as prepared and ensure confidence from employees. Build a recession plan. This thinking enables leaders to do the following:

1. Define the reason for action.

Why does the business need to change? Why have you decided to change your way of doing business?

2. What is the current condition?

What do your metrics look like? Has revenue fallen dramatically in recent months, have inventory levels risen enormously or are your overhead expenses increasing? Each business leader needs to have a solid idea of where their company is currently at in order to know where it needs to go.

3. Describe what results your business is looking to achieve, in numbers.

Be bold. Think in terms of double digit levels of improvement in quality and customer satisfaction, lead times/delivery performance, cost/productivity and human development.

Once reasons for action, current conditions and target state are clearly defined, businesses must continuously share these messages with workers — like a mantra. Business leaders must make it their role to define and explain what these goals are, share the path to achieving them, motivate people to take the journey with them, and assist them in removing obstacles.


To achieve double-digit improvements in quality, delivery, cost and human development business leaders must transform their business processes. The old way of performing work, fraught with non-value added activity, will not allow you to deliver on your bold target state goals. To capture market share you must be better, faster and cheaper in responding to customer needs than your competition. Some specifics you should consider are:
1. Establish tactical goals which lead to strategic achievement (i.e. Policy Deployment).
2. Develop a system for measurement and accountability (see #1).
3. Align compensation plans with #1 and #2.
4. Be keenly aware of the “break-even” point and check it regularly.
5. Judiciously expand credit.
6. Invest in customer market research (VOC).
7. Check capacity for readiness to accommodate increased buying activity.
8. Make acquisitions-use pessimism to your advantage.
While your competition is hunkered down trying to protect its cash, business leaders can be investing in rapid process improvement. Customers will recognise your responsiveness and reward you with new orders.


We do not believe in ‘trimming the fat.’ People are not connations of waste. Your employees are the enablers who will improve your processes and deliver on your bold targets. Management has no more important role than to motivate and engage large numbers of people to work together toward achieving your bold goals. To win their heads, hands and hearts, you must create a culture of continuous learning and an environment that not only accepts, but actually embraces, change. Consider doing the following:

1. Positive leadership modeling (values, habits, and behavior define culture).
2. Implement human development programs and cross train key people.
3. Hire “top” talent.
4. Renegotiate union contracts for more flexibility.
5. Drive creativity before making capital expenditures.
6. Align resources along value streams.
7. Aggressively enforce safety, attendance and drug policies-rid yourself of the “antibodies.”
8. Deliver on meaningful challenges-energising the team will be the source of motivation to achieve breakthrough results.

To win in this economic recession businesses must sufficiently focus on sharpening these three P’s.

Act now

Businesses need to begin with a candid assessment of where they are today, reflecting deeply on how they need to position their organisation to win new and profitable business. Once that has been achieved, the transformation to develop fast, flexible processes that give the customers what they want, when they want it, at the highest quality and affordable cost can begin.

Even though there are plenty of challenges and uncertainties, business must make a commitment to continuously invest in their people and promote a culture of continuous learning and improvement. The rewards and results will far outweigh the effort required.