Sooner or later, our projects are going to start back up, and some organizations will conduct this restart better than others. How will they do that, exactly? Well, here are a few points to consider when the commercial environment makes solid moves back towards normalcy.
First, let’s consider the implications that come with a blank slate, or the resetting of the business environment. Recall the oft-stated GTIM axiom, of Quality, Availability, Affordability: pick any two. When the massive economic timeout was called, which two of these three did your organization pursue most energetically? It’s important, because:
- If your organization’s product or service was a quality leader, and was priced that way, then availability was probably okay, i.e., no significant wait times. When the planet’s economies come back on-line, this aspect will be stressed, as pent-up demand will challenge your previous levels of availability. When that happens, management will need to make a decision, whether to hedge on some aspects of quality, raise prices, or be prepared to arrange for wait lists. Keep in mind, any of these has the potential to reduce the organization’s market share; but, since availability was previously a strength, then wait lists are (generally speaking) the biggest potential threat to a successful restart.
- On the other hand, if your organization’s product or service was readily available and affordable, but wasn’t necessarily known for its rare quality, then your ability to attract your competitors’ pre-timeout customers will be predicated on your ability to convince them that your organization’s version of the good or service is “good enough” for the job. This also assumes that such an organization is in a position to regain its potentially furloughed staff, since, generally speaking, those companies that concentrate on affordable and available goods and services do not require a preponderance of highly-skilled staff, which makes them vulnerable to higher turnover rates, which carry with them their own difficulties.
- Finally, high-quality and readily available goods or services already had waiting lists prior to the macro timeout, and restarting activities will probably focus on reconciling the backlog. However, while this is going on, the competitors with the previously-addressed characteristics will be seeking to gain market share by picking off those customers who have the budget, but not the time.
Now let’s shift gears again, and consider the Corner Cube hypothesis. Harkening back to another oft-stated ideas, that there are three distinct and different types of management, to wit:
- Strategic Management is focused on market share,
- Asset Management wants to “maximize shareholder wealth,” and
- Project Management seeks to deliver scope on-time, on-budget, for what are essentially customer-specified parameters.
A little mental exercise here: which of these are the goals of start-up companies? Do entrepreneurs tend to base their decisions on, say, how much return they can expect from their investments? Or do they not rather invest large amounts of their own time and talents in an effort to attract and satisfy customers? Of course customer satisfaction, i.e. Project Management, is the priority, as laid out in my very first published (and peer reviewed) article, Managing to the Corner Cube; Three Dimensional Management in a Three Dimensional World (https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/three-dimensional-management-world-5329). In fact, successful start-ups will generally follow this progression:
- Do whatever it takes to attract and satisfy customers in the organization’s field of endeavor.
- Only after a strong customer base has been attained will deliberate efforts at increasing market share commence, meaning that Strategic Management will take precedence over Asset Management. When I say “deliberate efforts,” it’s because the establishment of a strong customer base will usually automatically increase or establish some level of market share, and in a way that successful Asset Management, well, won’t.
- Remember the axiom that the point of all management is to “maximize shareholder wealth?” Well, the Corner Cube hypothesis refutes this directly, and here’s Exhibit A: only after a reliable customer base has been established AND an acceptable market share secured will the successful manager even think about increasing return on investment.
Soooo, what does this mean in re-start space? Even those organizations that have met their goals of customer base, market share, and return on investment will easily find themselves having to approach the re-start as if they were brand-new, meaning Project Management re-emerges as the most important, most immediate goal of the re-starting organization.
But then, that’s been the real goal this whole time, hasn’t it?