Krugman, Politics and the US Economy: A Slow, Downward Spiral

There are a lot of reasons why executives call me in to help them with their enterprises.  From changes in strategy to disasters, they want my eyes to take a look and help them guide their organization toward the success they envision.

That's great.

But, sometimes, by the time I'm called in, it's too late.  There's nothing that can be done.  The slow, downward spiral has gone too far.

It starts with a decision.  The decision is executed.  Then, even though there are many who know that decision isn't the right way to go, no one is willing to step up and say what needs to be said.

The slow, downward spiral has begun.

Not only does everyone keep executing on the same decision, but the bad decision is expanded.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Everything - and every decision - touches everything else in the organization.

The downward spiral has gained velocity.

That means that the decision - which now even more people know is the wrong thing to do, but still aren't talking or taking action - is being manifest in even more corners of the organization.

The spiral is gaining depth.

For those who see that things aren't going right - many of them the decision makers and their supporters - the focus shifts from the original decision to how it's being incorrectly executed.  That's the problem, they're convinced.  In fact, they think, if the organization would just do more and a better job of executing on the decision, everything would be fine.  Just fine.

It's everyone else's fault.  Not the decision that was made.

And so the spiral continues.  Faster and quicker - until there comes a point that the spiral is irreversible.  The organization has gone too far along a path that is designed to fail to be able to turn back.  At least not in the form that the organization had previously existed.

Too often - and most unfairly - the manager or executive who made the decision, leaves the enterprise before the full scale of destruction left in his or her wake takes hold.

"Hey!" they say.  "It wasn't my fault.  I wasn't there when the company went down.  In fact, that's part of the reason I left!"

Yet, for those staying behind - trying desperately to do the fix - all that's left is the hope that they can either find another job or that the company that is left will still have a place for them.

This scenario isn't one that is limited to down economic cycles.  In fact, it is just as prevalent when it's a good economy.  Because bad decision making is bad decision making - but the refusal to take action against it is death.

Interestingly, Paul Krugman in his NY Times Op-Ed piece applies the same thinking to the US economy, its politicians and the Fed.  If he's right, then the US is in for more long-term problems than it has experienced, possibly in its history.

I don't know if that's going to be the case for the US.  What I do know is that, in your own organization, it's time for you to stop and take a look at what decisions are and have been made and how they're working for you.

Are you getting the results you wanted?  Do you get the challenge and discussion and debate that's required to ensure that your decisions are well founded and that there aren't any hidden potholes you didn't consider?

Are you getting the best information - all the time - that you and the organization need?

If you've got the right brains and the right culture, you've got it nailed.  You'll have the information you need.  If you've got the courage to listen and act, you've got a company that will succeed.

And then, you'll never see any downward spirals - slow or otherwise.