January 2016 has ushered in an array of surprises ranging from a number of notable entertainer deaths to announcements of massive layoffs (35,000 in three companies and counting).  Although in the Chinese calendar it is the year of the “Red Monkey”, a character of unceasing wit and a sign of prosperity, it appears that present day realities may have a totally different agenda in mind.  Although the calendar really commences on February 8th these early signs are a bit disruptive and demoralizing for many.

I contend that this isn’t just the Red Monkey year but one in which we must revisit and refocus on value.  It is a bit ironic that when oil prices dip or consumer spending flattens that our first reaction is to cut staff.  Surgically speaking its equivalent to a radical procedure being undertaken as opposed to being a bit more precise.  Have we forgotten that these people, who we are cutting, were at one time aggressively justified in order to fund their position.  The basis of this was the production of value.  Is the value not being generated or are we swinging the scalpel at what we now consider overhead or is it swung at those areas that are under producing.  Yet as the knife moves swiftly forward we fail to see elements of spending that are unnecessary and starve those areas that struggle to achieve outcomes because of the limited funding support.

There are lots of reasons for performance challenges.  Market issues, social unrest, disruptive technologies, resource migration patterns and even obsolescence. Unfortunately businesses are designed as forward looking and not conditioned to address these challenges until presented with such.  Even then the addressing of issues become a knee jerk reaction and not one that has been anticipated.  By design our companies may be organized around function or product but are not overlayed with a template to address these factors.  As a result wholesale radical downsizing occurs rather than reshaping and carefully pruning the company.

What is the impact of radical efforts?  Its disruptive and creates instability.  At the top management is now place in a role of controlling a ship that us no longer be said that there is confirmed proof of sea worthiness.  I think back to the boom-bust-boom year of Apple in which erratic directives created instability.  Only after the captain (Jobs) returned did the crew have renewed faith, and the market adopted an intense love affair.  It wasn’t just about the captain however, it was also about the combined relationship of business with consumer community.

In 2016 we must return to value conscientiousness.  Even though we might sense or even know ‘value’ from experience we must consider the present state of those things that influence value.  As managers and as business leaders the questions of value must be raised in order for us to shift from warm fuzzy hope to hard and fast facts.  You want to attend a conference what value will it produce?  Will it add to your knowledge base, show our market presence, provide an opportunity to hear what our consumers are needing and then  how will we use this to change the way we do things in our business to create opportunities?   The days of soft analysis, easy to justify any noble pursuit is long gone at least for those companies (big and small) who strive for a progressive path.

The recommendation(s) for 2016 to reduce and insulate yourself on the brutal world we face;

  1. Evaluate your organization from the vantage point of core functions given possible negative impact scenarios.  Even though you might discount a service or product line there may be invaluable resources that should not be disposed of.  At the same time there me be others that should have been culled and haven’t been thus far.
  2. Don’t rely upon those to cut or reform the organization that have a vest interest. Even with feet to the fire the decisions or suggestions undertaken are often heavily prejudiced.
  3. Impose a program for ‘Value’ based thinking.  EVERYTHING we do involves cost, whether it be time or hard spending.  Remaining mindful of the obvious needs to be revisited.  Otherwise we become lacks and as a result we produce waste.  The accumulation of waste weakens the ability to address events that challenge our very existence.
  4. Understand factors that can happen whether within or outside of your control.  Forewarned is forearmed (Latin Proverb- Praemonitus, praemunitus).

In conclusion, it’s time to be more responsible for our lives.  We see loads of ‘how to take control’ pieces all of which provide cleaver advise on how to take charge.  But in the one area where it can strike home, value based efforts, we leave it to chance and instinct.  Both are inconsistently applied and rudely applied.  Thus the need for a self-conditioned routine behavior is in order.  It will take time and persistence, challenges will be face, but its one that has proven value.  So as we move forward in 2016 lets be one with VALUE.