Advice for 2009 from Harvard Business Bloggers

"In 2009," HarvardBusiness.org blogger Scott Anthony writes, "managers will realize that they are no longer dealing with a crisis; they are dealing with a condition." We asked our bloggers how managers should prepare themselves and their companies for a year that will begin -- we hope it will not end -- in global recession. Here are some of their responses. For more, and to see the most popular stories of 2008, visit HarvardBusiness.org.

Don't cut costs first and ask questions later. Focus on your relationship with your customers. -- Bill Taylor

Am I suggesting that leaders rule out layoffs, investment reductions, or budget cuts? Of course not. But I am proposing one simple discipline: to balance out the urge to purge with a zest to invest. Make it mandatory that every time a brand or department or business unit moves to scale back and reduce costs, it also moves to stand out and strengthen relationships. Every tangible cost cut must be matched by a tangible burst of creativity that makes a meaningful statement to customers about what the company stands for.

Embrace a paradoxical approach to innovation, and find a place in the low end of the market. -- Scott Anthony

Leaders in most Fortune 500 companies grew up in an era where they could succeed largely by exploiting their existing business. Today's leaders need to master both exploitation and exploration. They need to develop the ability to rely on precise data in their core business and intuition and judgment when they are creating new growth businesses. They have to live the old F. Scott Fitzgerald mantra, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the same mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."


Be accountable, both locally and globally. -- Vineet Nayar

Business today works across geographical borders on the back of a cross-culture, cross-currency, cross-product, cross-time zones workforce. Markets too have transformed, with the West no longer the only or even predominant market. So in 2009, emerging leaders will have to adapt to the reality of time zones, to multiple cultures, multiple currencies, multiple pricing. We in India, and particularly in the IT services industry, have learned this lesson very quickly. In fact, insights into how to run a global corporation will come out of the Indian multinationals.

Approach projects not as projects at all, but as experiments. -- Susan Cramm


  • Prepare a business case and estimate overall funding needs based on a sequential plan of experiments

  • Request funding for the first experiment and define success as the ability to prove or disprove a hypothesis (e.g., franchisees will use an on-line tool providing it has the following information and performance) or gain additional information (e.g., this is the information that the agents want)

  • At the end of each experiment, determine what was learned and revise the business case and sequential plan of experiments and request funding for the next experiment provided the overall business case still makes sense

By HarvardBusiness.org Editors  |  December 30, 2008; 3:30 PM ET
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