1. Is The Company Who It Thinks It Is?

Jeff Stephenson

Co-Owner and Subject Matter Expert/RPSolved - AdvisoryCloudTM

It is good to know that in a downturn, (1) clients are more forgiving of long term changes that incur short-term performance dips, (2) any downturn offers an opportunity to accelerate ongoing transformations as well as initiate new ones, and (3) most importantly, downturns provide an ideal opportunity to inject life into a stalling initiative, renew our sense of urgency, justify unpopular decisions and shake up complacent employees. The last of which is critical, as it is through your employees that your company will either be consumed by the downturn or come out of it stronger, more resilient and better as a whole.

Although, usually unpleasant, crisis brings latent challenges to a head and if you have the establish processes, your company can harness the resulting urgency to tackle the crisis. Crisis also provides an external rationale to justify painful decisions that would appear extreme in better times and provides us with justification to make decisions that incur short term financial pains for long-term strategic gains.

Some say that companies, like people, must pass through a life cycle. Sometimes companies progress through this sequence with competitors and other times companies pass through in isolation. Life cycle however is not a destiny and some say that in truth it is not the companies that pass thru life cycles but rather opportunities do. I feel that the schools of thought are not mutually exclusive but exist as one within a company and it is simply just a case of “a rose by any other name is still a rose.”

Regardless of what name the situation is given, organizations can avoid their “midlife crisis” through AGILITY. If your company is able to quickly and effectively shift resources, including cash, talent, and managerial attention out of less promising areas and into more attractive ones then your company has a better chance to succeed. Agility however is neither the only way nor necessarily the best way as eventually even the best will be hit regardless of how quick they are on their feet.

The capability to “take in on the chin” or better said, absorb the punch, will permit your company to survive and capitalize on the opportunities that the “sledgehammer wakeup-call” makes available. In short, your company must combine both strategies and learn agile absorption, whereby your company are both quick to capitalize on an opportunity but also have a strong chin in case something gets through your defenses.

As a matter of due diligence, before setting off on any journey, your company must know the things that will either help your company, hinder your company or can be accessed if needed. To ascertain how equipped your company is for their march into the future, the following questions need to be asked:

  1. How agile is your company?
  2. How much damage can your company take and keep running?
  3. Where is your company’s current fortitude (absorption) derived?
  4. Are these sources of fortitude the best available?
  5. What alternatives within reach could further fortify your company and enhance our agility?

What I have found after asking these questions of other organizations is that typically absorption is found at 68% and agility comes in at only 42%. When combined, they rank at 55% which means that for each positive attribute they have a negative one pulling the other way. In other words, one step forward and one step back, aka NO MOMENTUM. Furthermore, upon review of the data the answers arrived at are as follows:

  1. Companies are only about half as agile as they could/should be.
  2. Near a third of their armor has holes in it, which will further expand with either one big blow or numerous and frequent light blows.
  3. Although there are some isolated pockets of internal strength, their broad shoulders are from both intangible: relationships with local clients and subcontractors, and tangible: Capital assets and whatever equity possessed in the various buildings and facilities.
  4. The sources of fortitude are not the best available. Other yet-to-be-realized armors do exist although some need to be tailored. This is not as difficult as it sounds because a majority of the materials are already in their hands and are ready to be pieced together.
  5. They must further develop and focus efforts on what they do well.The remainder of this report will identify potential existing or forthcoming holes in your company’s armor that need to be patched, the robust panels that can be reallocated to enable fluidity and movement while maintaining protection of vital areas, and most importantly, how to patch and/or where to reallocate the aforementioned.


  1. Have one or more representatives (the more the better) from each department and/or business unit anonomously complete and submit an assessment tailored to quanitify the attributes listed above.
  2. Compile the data and analyze the results. This will serve to either validate or discredit the initial findings. your company should refer to the results of this litmus test when formulating action plan.

*Submitting anonymously promotes honest responses without fear of retribution and/or keeps the person from using the assessment for personal gains.

Look forward to sharing Part 2 soon: "Observation - Did your company see that coming?"