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How do you describe the economy to your people, customers, suppliers and shareholders?  Because how you do communicate to your staff about the economy will also communicate messages about your strategy and will communicate a host of hidden and implicit messages about your thinking.  Its an important communication skill of managers and directors to know what they are communicating and how it is received.

Lets look at some examples.

Back in Feb 2010 I attended a seminar by Shelle Rose Charve.  She was talking about how the economy has affected businesses and their reactions.

She broke organisations’ overall behaviour into three three types.

1)  “Chicken Little”:  Here the emphasis is to run around cutting costs all over the place as a reaction to the economic downturn.  The Chicken Little reference was demonstrated by Shelle running around in circles saying “Cut Costs” “Cut Costs” “Cut Costs” in a clucking voice.  Quite funny, and probably indicative of some behaviour early in the economic crisis.

2) “Hiding in a cave”:  Here the approach is to hide from the storm, shut down, stop talking to people and hope the whole crisis will settle down and return to normal.  Again not very constructive.   I asked about organisations who were facing uncertainty and she said that their pattern is to also close down.  Clearly not a constructive constructive position.

3) “Planning for the future”:  Some organisations are taking this economic situation as an opportunity.  They are beavering away looking for opportunities.

I actually think that organisations that are surviving are in this latter part.  I hear that both voluntary liquidations and companies acquiring other companies (Distress sales and cheap assets) are rising.

I also think this has been a about phases of this economic crisis. Early on there was cost cutting but now the uncertainties are different.  Its no longer about – how deep is this recession and how bad will it be.  Its about how soon will we come out and how quickly and which parts first.  Its also about when will the banks start lending again?

I’ll explore more metaphors for the economy in subsequent posts