Helping Your Company Understand the Economic Crisis

Last Updated Oct 29, 2008 2:30 PM EDT

Harvard Business School professor John Kotter recalls a company visit recently where the subject of the economic crisis was front and center. That was the good part. The bad part, Kotter reports on a blog post, is that no one was drawing the right lessons.

What he saw was finger pointing, complacency, and frenetic activity replacing focused productivity.

The key to being a successful leader in this environment aligns nicely with one of the central messages in his new book, A Sense of Urgency. Use urgency to make positive change

"With real urgency," Kotter writes, "people cut out low priority work and delegate more. They cooperate more with others who are taking smart action. They look for the opportunities hidden in the hazards. All of this increases the chances that the impact of the hazards will be minimal and new opportunities will be found."

Kotter offers several tips on what you can do to instill that urgency in your organization: see what is really going on in your company, help others assess the situation properly, and model the level of urgency you think is necessary to take corrective action. Read his post for more details.

Do your executives have a real grasp of what's going on in the economy and how it will affect your business? Has that been communicated to the troops? Or is everyone just waiting for the next shoe to drop?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.