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Action Management
Action Management for a Business Upturn

By Dale Bruder, the Strategy Coach

The business of business is momentum. Business is a race. Business is action. Managing action challenges managers and owners to re calibrate thinking processes to account for the fact that every company goes through it's own stages of the business race. Each business and every manager encounters new competitive pressures, new global realities, and new customer demands constantly.

In this current position of the business sine wave (the term business cycle is a false descriptor) where the general perception is sluggish revenues; business managers must adopt action management techniques to sustain their competitive advantage.

Those who coast through this time will find their market positions severely eroded when the business wave rises again. Vitalized competitors and aggressive new enterprises with action plans are, today, taking over markets others established. To doze, to wait for the next upturn is to give away hard won market share.

Two distinct courses of action are required of companies that will thrive in the next rise of the business wave. The actions businesses must take are to either sprint or high jump to the front of the pack.

A sprint is an activity of short duration and low complexity. Outsourcing a single function is a typical sprint. So is functional downsizing or bringing a new product to market.

A high jump is a rapid action made to improve business performance. High jumps are highly complex, of short duration and are decisive. High jumps include a merger or an acquisition, a radical restructuring or a project aimed at corporate revitalization.

Both events require an investment of senior management commitment, two or more full time employees and allocation of specific resources.

The action plan for a Sprint covers these areas:

  • Set aggressive weekly and monthly milestones targeting quick wins to gain early credibility.
  • Guarantee sufficient resources to sustain both the action program and normal customer service levels - customers have the least patience and you have the least time.
  • Establish the action leader as the single point of accountability for the action's success.
  • Set and monitor short-term performance targets for the action team.
  • Focus all communication on excitement and speed of payoff.
  • Continuously update progress - performance versus the target goal; break it down so everyone knows the weak links.
  • Invest in training, so employees can upgrade their skills and move with lightening speed.
  • Reduce development time by reviewing rapid prototyping approaches to system development.
  • Set - and keep - stretch goals.
The action plan for a High Jump includes these areas:
  • Prioritize efforts based on speed of delivery and projected market impact, eliminating or deferring less important efforts.
  • Organize task forces dedicated to specific action areas - in a merger, for example, system integration, people selection, and organization design.
  • Help the action leader adopt a decisive, directive, hands-on style. As in the case of a sprint, when the stakes are high and time is short, people will expect to be told what to do.
  • Be prepared to deal decisively with resisters.
  • Deliver action-related news - good and bad - honestly and quickly.
  • Use frequent communication devices, the system has to be faster than the rumor machine. Display a countdown graphic in prominent locations.
  • Implement existing employment policies without compromising or taking shortcuts.
  • Spot and avoid duplication of effort that results from integration. Save time and money by doing things once.
  • Recognize that the first information-technology priority is business continuity and not systems improvement.
  • Use tracking to keep everyone aware of how the program is doing today.

    Action management is a skill that keeps companies, their investors and owners, customers, employees and communities thriving in any point on the business sine wave. Every competitive pressure, global reality and customer demand becomes energy for action. Developing the pragmatic thinking processes of action managers is a demand for today's business environment and a requirement in future successes