Here is an article by a consultant from Boston Consulting Group, describing a client, Brady Corp (BRC) who took many early decisions and thus avoided much of the pain of the recession.
Reading it, I ask myself the question, what was it about the culture in this company that allowed them to make the decisions they did? Why were they able to see what was coming, anticipate the risks, take tough decisions and keep their employees engaged, and other companies were not. A single leader will struggle to implement radical change quickly without the support of a culture aligned to this approach. These are the moments when the impact of culture on performance becomes so clear to me.
I see four characteristics in companies who are able to practice good risk anticipation and make decisions to mitigate these risks.
1. Questioning the status quo, challenging each other, and dedicating special time to do this.
2. Future, rather than past, orientation
3. Willingness to stand up and be counted, take responsibility through taking decisive action
4. Managers think for the whole and can see a global perspective which may not advantage their individual area
And four characteristics in those who are not.
1. A good news culture. Things are communicated with a positive spin
2. Very nice to each other, unwillingness to step on each other"s toes
3. Avoidance, blame and denial, usually motivated by a desire to stay out of trouble.
4. Highly internally competitive with individuals seeking to outperform each other and be stars
The time to build these characteristics into a culture is when people are feeling the pain of this recession. Learning can be more difficult during stable years. In this way it is possible to build recession-proof charcteristics which will also serve to respond to future change in market conditions.