No Sugarcoating, No Spin
Let me suggest ways NOT to plan and execute a downsizing strategy:
First, set up a small group of top managers to work quickly and in secret to come up with the plan, so that nobody finds out about it in advance, lest it upset employees and shareholders.
Second, announce it in a press release that tries to spin it as a painful but necessary adjustment but allows the company to get the current crisis behind it.
Third, give scripts to managers to use when calling in the people who will be laid off, telling them the bad news and ordering them to clear out their desk within the hour, and have them escorted out of the building by security officers.
The sad thing is that this is the standard "best practice" in corporate America these days, driven mostly by lawyers and HR directors who often have very narrow views of what is in the best longterm interest of the country. It also plays into the growing gap that exists between the corporate suite and the offices and factory floors and labs where the real value creation takes place.
Here is another, more successful model:
First, send out a notice to the entire enterprise outlining what the problems are and the gaps that need to be filled to get the enterprise through the crisis. Appoint a steering committee to come up with options drawn from various sections and levels of the enterprise. Give the committee a tight deadline and lots of support from the planning and financial office. Invite everyone to contact committee members by email with ideas.
Second, when the committee has had time to consider various options, sit down with them and come to a tentative consensus on the general direction to go in. At this point, swear them to secrecy, head off on a retreat and come up with a plan.
Third, announce the plan yourself in small group meetings around the enterprise in which you go through the trade-offs that you made and why the decisions were necessary for the longterm health of the company. Don't sugarcoat a thing. No spin. Put videos of the sessions on your website for everyone to see, including the back and forth with employees who are unhappy or who disagree.
Finally, give all employees several weeks to clean up their affairs and say their goodbyes.
This is the respectful way people want to be treated and the way they want to see their colleagues treated. It creates the right culture for winning the creativity and loyalty of all employees, sets a model for how mid-level managers should treat their people and is most honest and open with the long-term shareholders.
Posted by: donnolo | February 16, 2009 8:17 PM
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Posted by: astamand | February 12, 2009 11:43 AM
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