Managing without Growth

As the economy continues to languish, the way we think, manage and act must change dramatically. Paradigms have shifted enough that growth once widely thought of as the panacea for all major economic ills, will not be the way out this time. Even Stephen Harper stated in the fall of 2012 that little or no growth and a level of uncertainty is what we should expect as the new normal.

The book titled, Managing without Growth:  Slower by Design, Not Disaster, by Dr  Peter Victor is a fresh view on the challenges our world faces. Published in 2008 the timing of its release was serendipitous. The power of the argument and case put forward is palatable and tests fundamental assumptions and beliefs about the market, pricing, free trade, growth, prosperity and happiness.

The premise of the book says we must change and overcome our addiction with economic growth – ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ may not be the way. If we slow down deliberately (i.e. by design not disaster) then we have a much better chance of getting what we all seek – quality of life and an economy that is sustainable worldwide.

Victor presents with depth and thought foundational issues such as how we view progress, economics, measurement of growth and what it really means.  He also provides some compelling arguments and models that verify the possibility of low to no growth.

And the book is aimed at all of us as a whole and certainly shakes up conventional thinking.  How does it fit within the context of individual organizations facing survival and competitive challenges right now?  What if anything from his concepts can be applied at ground level?  These are valid questions deserving of consideration and potential action.

Based on a low/no growth approach as suggested by Victor it will be those who embrace needed change and innovate who will likely make the leap to a new paradigm with grace and agility.  Most organizations have done all the cutting of costs they can do without harming survival.  It makes sense to look for directions that are by design (pausing to figure it out) rather than by default (letting it happen to you).

Typically we look to the past to see what will work.  If we cut a slice across the box and check out the view it affords, can we see other views we hadn’t seen before?  If so, how can we use them to our advantage?

As a management consulting firm focused on helping organizations effectively execute their strategy and realize the benefits that drive competitive advantage we see five core ways to manage within this new framework:

  1. Effective Execution is the new religion. Keeping the lights on generally takes care of itself.  Getting to the next place is supremely more difficult.  It must be done with rigour and tenacity.  Look at what others have undertaken in different industries to draw advantage.
  2. Trial and Error – Be willing to test or try new ideas/concepts. Know the organization’s risk tolerance and push the edge.  At the same time be brave (and smart enough) to stop quickly if it isn’t working.
  3. Change pressures will implode organizations and its people – we can maximize people value by empowering them while ensuring accountability.
  4. Resource management and capacity planning are not being done well with competing priorities. Effective use of people will be critical when we are asking so much of so few. By slowing down and executing with excellence we have a greater chance of success and getting where we want to go faster.
  5. Track, measure and adjust. What is written down is real.  And what gets measured will get done. Share that with everyone – opening the ‘books’ so to speak keeps everyone engaged and vested in the future.

What are you doing to build core capabilities for a business world with little or no growth?


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