These are challenging economic times with no apparent bottom, let alone a quick recovery. Customers will become even more selective, carefully considering from whom they may buy or if they should buy at all. As a result, there will be heightened competition for fewer dollars. Additionally, every company will be under pressure to reduce operational and development costs.

So what can you do?  Here are two strategic ideas that will help you now, and be of particular strategic importance when the economy picks up again.

Think Tough

Martin Luther King, Jr. said,

[r]arely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think”.

So now is the time to stop horsing around and think.  Think tough.  Procrastinating on hard decisions will just make them more expensive later.  Think now and think hard.

Tough thinking requires asking tough questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What problem are we solving?
  • Are we all very clear as to the problem we are solving and how we are going about solving it?
  • Are we overpowering the solution, making a mountain out of a molehill?
  • If we had the opportunity to do this again, what would we do it differently?
Companies that make the necessary adjustments to their products, organization, and processes will be better positioned to weather the storm. They will be the companies that come out the other side better equipped to take advantage of the fixed economy.

Act Quickly

Take this time to review some of your large, monolithic projects and processes.  Are they ubiquitous roads to nowhere? Consider moving to a fast cycle time (FCT) strategy consisting of small incremental changes executed very quickly. The argument against FCT is that that the sum of the cost of the small steps will cost more than the whole. We all know better! The number of permutations, handoffs, and chances for error exponentially increase with the size of a project or process.  As a result, the probability of an unanticipated error is high.

Companies continuing with new “leapfrog” products will find themselves with exorbitant costs and a new product that may miss the mark completely.  Companies that put everything on hold or make few hard decisions will muddle along, go out of business or at least lose the lead.

Smaller, quicker projects have high schedule and cost predictability. In addition, if you implement FCT in your product development cycles, your customers will appreciate the small scale improvements in these turbulent times. More importantly, over time your costs will decrease, and your quality will increase.

Ask questions, but also be ready to act:

  • How do we do this in half the time?
  • Is there an 80/20 rule here where we can get 80% of the benefits, with 20% of the effort?
  • How could we chop this initiative up into 4 pieces and execute one at a time?


Now, more than ever, is the time to think and to act.  Think tough about how you can apply fast cycle time to reduce costs, improve quality. Act quickly to the current market and anticipate that which will emerge.

About the Author

Michael Kallet is the CEO of HeadScratchers which provides Critical Thinking Training for businesses. Michael is a 30 year veteran of leading innovation in numerous high tech industries.