Are we making the recession worse?
On Friday, official statistics confirmed what many have us have known for a while. The UK is in recession.
What the government statisticians cannot tell us, is how long the recession will last, or how deep and painful it will be.
The extent and depth of our economic pain depends on us: on what we do, and on what we are able to persuade other people to do.
Many people in Britain believe that we are making the recession worse by reacting to all the news in the press. To stay on the safe side, we cut back our expenditure. We don’t spend our pounds, and the people we used to trade with are now short. They have to cut back, and by-and-by, the recession happens, and comes rounds to reduce our business in real terms. Now we genuinely don’t have the pounds to spend, and the spiral continues depressingly downwards.
But what else can we do?
It’s a matter of psychology. If we think of the economy as a soccer game (football to British readers), we are in defence. We have moved back into our own half, and we are defending our goal. Our defenders become very important, and our strikers are the supporting cast.
Rule One, in bad times, is defend the goal and to make very controlled passes. In business terms, we defend the bottom line, we make sure every process is profitable, and we are careful not to provide shoddy service. The opposition will capitalise in a flash on any inability to satisfy our customers.
Now if we continue thinking of the economy as a soccer game, we are in a bizarre position, where both sides have retreated into their half to defend their goal. Picture that for a moment – an empty centre field.
If we continue like this, we’ll have no game at all. That is we will slide into a depression, where the economy, or game, evaporates in front of our eyes.
We need to play against the other side to have a game! We do to do business to have an economy.
Rule Two, is keep the game going. Keep the forwards looking forward. Dominate the mid-field, and take the game to the opposition. The difference between this, and the game in good times, is simply that our defenders are defending, assiduously. They are not going to move far up field. They are going to do a good job, and be seen and heard to do a good job, so that the forwards can move forward in confidence and do their job!
In a large business, these are the questions we ask.
- Who is on defence? And are they confident they can defend our goal? When will they need the forwards to come back and help them? How will they know in good time, when to call us back, and what will be the signal?
- What is our attack game with fewer people at the front? Where are the weaknesses in the other defence? After all they are concentrating their defence too! What targets will we go after, clinically and surgically? What are our plans to move rapidly into defence when we are called back?
- And how will we bring both these plans together to dominate the midfield?
In my youth, I was a basketball player. My high school were long term champions. When I went off to university, my university was the opposite. We did well not to be relegated! Playing in such different teams taught me a key element of strategy.
In my high school days, when we were under pressure, as the better team, we slowed the game down. With better ball skills and better training, it paid us to slow the game down, be more measured, and use set pieces. Our total score was lower, but the other side had to work harder to get possession, and were unable to rack up a better score.
At university, playing in a scrappy team in the city league, we took the opposite approach. When we played the very good sides, we took advantage of our youth and played a very, very fast game. When we got hold of the ball, we moved like lightning to score before the other, better side, could get the ball back. And when they had the ball, we hustled and hassled until they made a mistake. If they did not understand this basic rule in strategy, which they often didn’t, they gave us sufficient opportunities to win, or make a very respectable showing.
Rule Three: Though basketball and soccer are very different games, this is the basic rule. Play the game depending on your relative strength.
The big guys will try to slow the game down. They are the guys on defence! The weaker side needs to be quick and agile, but of course, not so dumb as to leave their goal undefended when they have the ball. The strong side may be playing slowly on purpose, but it will move quickly to capitalise on our errors!
The game will be ow scoring, but it will be a satisfying game. We must just remember to get into the midfield and play!
So how do we apply these rules if we are employees?
Do remember that we are not the big strong team! A lot of advice on the internet is the advice that the big corporations need to follow. We don’t need to slow the game down. They do. And they will try to convince you to slow down, because it gives them an advantage.
Don’t! You are the young and vigorous team! Play a fast game but also be focused. Name your defence, and keep you goal defended. Get out and hustle, and take your breaks. You have the big guys in their own half. They will sit there for the whole recession hoping for a 0-0 draw. As long as you aren’t rash, you have nothing to lose, and you win on a 1-0 scoreline!
Come with me!
Let’s make a plan to play this game! Why are we camped around our goal when the other team is 100 yards away camped around their’s?
Let’s send out some scouts! Tell me what you find out! And we will stand together on the winner’s podium!
UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.