To survive long-term or not to survive

or How organizations like yours may be jeopardizing their own future

Multiple-choice question: Companies that will emerge successfully from the recession are those focused on:

a.Taking every action possible to retain business and staff and just survive, or

b.Taking every action possible to prepare for the future and how they will thrive.

Answer:Trick question ­– keep reading for the real answer.

Most companies today are completely stuck in the above false dilemma:  Do we focus on what we need to survive, or do we focus on our future beyond this downturn?

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The bad news – one without the other will result in disaster. The good news – you can succeed if you do both.

All hands on deck!

It’s as though we’ve all been involved in a Titanic-like catastrophe – our ship was steaming along at full speed and suddenly hit an iceberg. Everyone is scrambling to make sure they have a lifejacket as the cold water gets closer. Everyone knows without lifejackets there is absolutely no chance of survival.

In the business world, this is cutting staff, cutting expenditures, hunkering down. If you have funding for 40 positions yet have 50 people on staff, you have to make some tough decisions about who gets the lifejackets. You do what you have to do to make payroll and to keep products and services flowing, even if it is very uncomfortable for you and others.

Survival is all that matters, right?

If this is your only goal, your lifejackets won’t be enough to see you through. You need to know your ultimate goal and take action towards it as soon as possible. Whether you work to keep your whistles and flares ready to alert rescuers, or you begin swimming in the direction of help, you need to take action to get out of the freezing water and to a warm ship or land. Your lifejacket will keep you afloat, but in these conditions it won’t keep you alive.

In the business world, there are many organizations who, while still afloat, are barely moving or are near their end.  They have been treading water for some time, believing that’s all they can do – while the situation continues to worsen around them. Their goal of immediate survival is jeopardizing their ability to survive long term.

The opposite extreme

Likewise, if you are standing on the deck creating the perfect plan as the waters close in, you will be immobilized before you have a chance to fire your flare or swim for help. It is irresponsible to ignore the brutal reality of the incoming, bone-chilling water.  You must take some action – like putting on a lifejacket – to mitigate the water's effects as you also work towards long-term success. Or you and your perfect plan will go down with the ship.

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In the business world, many people believe that taking action in a crisis to ensure everyone's efforts are aligned, creating a clear picture of the desired future for the organization, and building communication and leadership skills are pure folly. They see these activities as nice-to-haves – something like rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. And if these activities are done without any attention to urgent business needs, these people’s predictions of doom will ring true.

Chris Hutchinson, CEO

Chris Hutchinson, CEO

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Chris Hutchinson

As CEO of Trebuchet Group, Chris Hutchinson thrives working with clients and his team to improve organizational clarity, teamwork, and leadership impact.

After years of building Legos® and tree houses around the world, Chris earned his Mechanical Engineering degree and followed that with an MBA. His experiences in the military and the business world taught him great leadership can be learned, and everyone is in some way a leader.

Clients and peers describe him as an inspirational catalyst for positive change. He is the author of Ripple - A Field Manual for Leadership That Works.

Chris and his wife live, garden, and bike in Fort Collins, Colorado, and have four children. He has an unrequited love affair with brownies.