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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Leading Out of the Downturn

S+B: Any other thoughts on what leaders need to do to get through this recession and prepare for the future?
Well, some companies are doing well, but for many, it’s a very nasty picture. What happens when people focus on that is that their event horizon shrinks and all they can see is the immediate danger. It’s like they’re a patient in the intensive care unit, and they’re doing everything they can to get out of it. But the question should be: When you come out of the ICU, are you going to build a strong and healthy future for yourself? Leaders need to be setting in motion conversations that really are about the future. What are you going to be when this turns around?

Innovation in supply chain management is too often treated as inessential, something that is nice to have after the basics are in place. By identifying hidden costs and actively seeking innovative ways to address them, Cricket did more than save money — it brought in new revenues. By integrating innovation into a larger strategic approach that reaches across functional areas, all the way to the end customer, Cricket was able to transform cost problems into rich new opportunities. It may be the rare company that grows fast even in a global downturn. Companies that consciously make innovation a key element in supply chain reengineering can gain a competitive edge, even in tough economic times.

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  • Rob Norton is executive editor of strategy+business.
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  1. Leander Kahney, Inside Steve’s Brain (Portfolio, 2008): How Steve Jobs pursued his dream of bringing technology to the masses, and rewrote both his own future and that of Apple to make it come true.
  2. Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization (Collins Business, 2008): How “corporate tribes” — groups of 20 to 150 people within a company — come together on their own rather than through management decisions, and how leaders can use them to maximize productivity and profit.
  3. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Random House, 2007): People place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat, when, in fact, the really important events are rare and unpredictable.
  4. Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life (Jossey-Bass, 2009): Zaffron and Logan develop their system for rewriting the future and how it operates, in several case studies of multinational corporations.
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