Is it easier to tear down a barn than build it?

Published October 21st, 2009 by Erick Teas 0 Comments

After reading the IndustryWeek article “Recovering from the Recession Can Cause Risk to Manufacturers”, at first I had a feeling of happiness upon seeing that at least some people are giving thought to what needs to be done when the economy gets better. The feeling of happiness was soon overcome by a comical laugh as a large slew of clichés came to mind. Clichés such as: “it is easier to tear down a barn than build a barn;” or “you reap what you sow;” or perhaps the reverse of the last, “you won’t reap what has not been sowed.” Instead of cutting back, reducing and downsizing, will companies be in a position to rebuild, expand and upsize?

Over the last several decades, there seems to have been a few bright moments spotting a gloomy trend. I make no claim that this is a scientifically sound statement, just a personal observation of the last 33 year of working, whereby the biggest concern for very many of those years was being laid off. I don’t remember anyone saying “these are the good ole days!” A lot of effort was put into limiting supply chain risk and downsizing. No one wanted to be caught holding the excess inventory hot potato! We have all developed means of cutting back when sales soften. Last year; however, the bad times very quickly became the worst times. Products and services were not needed. Supply lines were shut down or cut off. Man power was cut back. To stop the bleeding many actions had to be taken.

Now the question that has to be asked is what is to be done when the economy gets better? Can businesses upsize? Losing a growth opportunity is just as bad as not recognizing a down turn.

Though this article starts with the words of “…the recovery cycle is the biggest risk in 2010”, the survey showed that many are still concerned that the recovery will not happen soon. That is a real concern, but it has to be balanced with what needs to be done when the recovery does happens. You do not want to be left behind! The listed risks are traditional and very real items such as quality, prices, supply disruption, etc. In addition to risk mitigation there is risk in not recognizing opportunity. Most companies have reduced their manpower. When the orders start to come in will your company have the capacity? Will your suppliers? Can you keep a lid on the prices now, before demand driven price increases hit.

Beyond these obvious concerns, the human equation might be the trickiest. Successful companies have never been made of many individuals working independently under one roof. Individuals who form a team and work together is what accelerates the goals and success of the company. Simply bringing in a bunch of people to fill newly required positions will not hit full stride until the teams are formed.

Recognition of a problem is the 1st step of a solution. Glad we are at least at the 1st step. These are not easy times. It is a fine line walking between being in position to take advantage of a recovery and making sure not to sink if the recovery is delayed.

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