Right now there’s not a lot of excitement in America, and rightfully so, because there’s not a whole lot to get excited about—the economy is awful, people are still losing their jobs and homes continue to be foreclosed. Everyone would like to see this recession end sooner than later, but all indications are that it will end later—much later. When you think about it, this whole scenario is pretty depressing.
This begs the question: is there anything that can be done to speed this process up so that we can begin to see light at the end of the tunnel? The answer is yes and it’s really quite simple, but the executives running American businesses must abandon their century old practice of top-down management and replace it with company-wide collaboration. The assumption behind top-down management is that the people at the top possess all the necessary knowledge to make decisions that are in the best interest of the business. That assumption is no longer true. It’s the employees on the front line—the people who do the work that the company gets paid for—who possess that knowledge. They’re the ones who understand how the business works and they know what needs to be done to fix things. So, why not take advantage of this wealth of knowledge.
For example, let’s take a look at a story that was reported in the New York Times on May 21. According to the article, the economic downturn really hit the engine manufacturing business of SRC Holdings this past November to where the plant was faced with a six month gap in orders. As Jack Stack, the chief executive of SRC put it, “the entire plant collaborated on how to schedule their workloads—they basically had to take eight hours out of their work week to save money until we could bet back on a full schedule. Because everyone knew the numbers, they scrambled to find new products and clients…to fill the gap faster. The result was that we lost money in December and January but we were back to full employment in February. And we didn’t do this through the old command-and-control method (top-down management); everybody knew the gravity of the situation, and all the great ideas came from within.” This is what company-wide collaboration can do for any company if senior management will just allow it to happen.
If a company wants to jump onto the fast track to recovery like SRC Holdings, all its senior management needs to do are the following three things sincerely, consistently and well:
- Ask the rest of the employees for their help. Let them know that everyone is in this together and that they hold the key to getting the company on the fast track out of the doldrums.
- Listen to their ideas. These are the people who understand the nuts and bolts of the business. They know what’s wrong and they know how to fix it.
- Empower them to take action. Give them the backing and support they need to put their ideas into action.
If more businesses in America would abandon their top-down approach to managing and adopt this collaborative approach which is used by not only SRC, but also by companies like Harley-Davidson, Southwest Airlines and Toyota, it would bring a sense of optimism, excitement and hope back to America and we truly would be on the fast track out of this recession. For more details on how to make this happen, check out my latest book, Instant Turnaround!