Navigating the new economy, Wall Street Journal offers “Guide to Essential Management”

Home News Navigating the new economy, Wall Street Journal offers “Guide to Essential Management”

The recession has created a new consumer and a new economy. While those two are constantly changing, it usually takes place gradually and over a long period of time giving economists, financial institutions, business owners, managers, etc., the ability study, evaluate and form strategies to successfully meet emerging trends.

But today, the rapid economic decline hit everyone so quickly they barely had time to get a grip and stop the bleeding. And, as the recession lingered, banks and other entities blamed largely for the initial collapse began posting record profits causing the general public to become distrustful of big business.

As a result of all this, not only has the economy and consumer changed, it happened so rapidly it has barely given anyone time to figure out a strategy going forward. So, what should owners and mangers do? How should they act to successfully engage new consumer attitudes and navigate the new economy?

Enter Alan Murray of The Wall Street Journal. In his book, “The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management,” he pointed out while there are some trends that can be gleaned from the chaos of the last three years—consumers not trusting business, financing becoming harder to come by, China (Asia) continuing to rise on the world stage, technology moving at a rapid pace— “success in the new era will require institutions that can survive through uncertainty and thrive amid rapid change, and managers who have the confidence and willingness and judgment to lead their team to find answers.”

He offered up a dozen points of general advice from the 240-page book that will likely serve FCNews readers well in the coming years. They include:

  1. Stay flexible. Managers will need a flexible organization, Murray said, so it can be repositioned quickly to address new threats and master new challenges.
  2. Devour data. Managers will need to have their “ears to the ground” in order to hear changes as they are coming. “You’ll need to seek out fresh sources of information, intelligence and data. You’ll need to follow the example of leaders like A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, who required his top executives to go out into the field and talk to the women who use the company’s products.”
  3. Be (somewhat) humble. Managers will not be able to assume they will always know the answer—because more often than not, they won’t, he stressed. “You’ll need to be willing to hear hard truths from your employees, your customers, your suppliers and anyone else closer to a changing marketplace than you are.”
  4. Communicate. The days of keeping your head down as a manager, focusing on operations instead of external communications, are over. More than ever, Murray explained, “Managers have to become advocates. Critics will abound, and you’ll need to be able to rally the support of your employees, your customers and clients and a whole array of outside stakeholders to survive and thrive.”
  5. Plan for contingencies. Saying it’s natural for people to focus on what they know, he points to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “The Black Swan,” who said, “Time and time again [we] fail to take into account what we don’t know.” With rising uncertainty, the advantage goes to those who can imagine the improbable, Murray added. “Keeping cash and other resources on hand for emergencies will also become increasingly important.”
  6. Be proactive. If you see a problem coming, Murray advises, “Don’t wait until it hits you…by then it will be too late. You will need to be prepared to react quickly.”
  7. Insist on candor. To succeed in an uncertain and rapidly changing environment, he said it’s critical for everyone in an organization to be brutally honest. “There’s no time for dealing with the small lies that people routinely use to burnish their own record or avoid offending others. Everyone needs to know exactly where things stand at all times.”
  8. Stay involved. No manager can afford to be seen hiding in the office. As such, Murray said, “It is important that you be seen out among your employees, in part to give them the confidence they need and in part to collect the necessary intelligence.”
  9. Keep your organization flat. This was a good idea before the new era, he noted, but “It’s critical now. You can’t afford to have layers of bureaucracy between you and the action. That will guarantee you are too slow to react.”
  10. Cross-train your talent. What used to be a good practice is now essential. “You need people with multiple skills who aren’t qualified for just one narrow task and who can be redeployed as the situation demands it.”
  11. Assess your team. Good times or bad, few organizations can afford to have people who are not pulling their weight. As a result of this, he explained, “You need to be constantly reassessing your team, making sure you encourage and promote the best, and dealing quickly with those who aren’t contributing.”
  12. Use your judgment. “No team of Ph.D. students building computer-powered mathematical models will ever be a good substitute for common sense. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know it wasn’t a good idea to give housing loans to people who put no money down.”

While admitting there is “no silver bullet and no one-minute answers,” Murray said the guide is an “attempt to summarize the lessons of many of the management thinkers of our times to provide a guide to best management practices.”

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