Project Management Strategies for a Challenged Economy

As recent media reports suggest, the dreaded “R” word—recession—is looming large across the horizon of most western and global economies. Many organizations have had to scale back their spending and reduce costs. Due to the cyclical nature of our economy, certain industries will fare better than others.

As a result of the savings generated by the cost reduction efforts, decisions on where to invest may determine which organizations emerge unscathed from a recession, and which organizations fall victim to it and implode.  In a recent Business Week article, Bruce Nusbaum, assistant managing editor in charge of the magazine’s innovation and design coverage says, “Winners always emerge out of recessions, and they almost always beat their competition on the basis of something new.” Nusbaum cited Apple as a powerful example. During the last recession, Apple worked on its iTunes and iPod. When the recession was over, retail stores immediately did gangbuster business with these products, and the company’s stock soared. Apple’s competition is still singing the blues.

The Pro-active  Project Manager

The need for a project manager (PM) to be” business savvy”, especially  during a recession, is critical.  The PM will have to become a crusader, a salesperson, and an influencer to fight for projects that enhance productivity and quality, or that shorten cycle times, or that have a shorter project life cycle to generate return on investment (ROI). When the economic cycle turns upward again—as it inevitably does—having invested in the improvement of quality and cycle time, within both manufacturing and product distribution, may result in a higher market share for a product. Once management has examined business processes as a way to bring about improvements, other areas of an organization’s infrastructure can be open for examination as well. The methodology that supports project management can be used in areas such as product design, by examining all aspects of a product’s features and benefits. This may result in improvements to product features unlike any of the competition’s product offerings, thus generating higher revenues for the organization.

Lean Strategies to Weather the Storm
1. Innovate to promote knowledge exchange by encouraging team-building and collaborative efforts through relationships with coworkers and vendors.
2. Generate competition among internal teams working toward to continous improvements.
3. Don’t cut back on meetings. Meetings for brainstorming and to fire up team members’ creativity are more important than ever when companies downsize.
4. Build new teams. Business pullbacks are excellent times to pursue new ideas and projects and to get them on the drawing board.?
5. Don’t insulate team members by cutting travel. Get them out in the world and exposed to new thinking. Send teams to trade shows and webinars, and encourage networking through associations, all to review costs with an eye toward eliminating unnecessary expenditures.
6. Introduce new technologies, such as business intelligence (BI) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), which will generate savings and add analytical visibility. For information on BI and ERP vendor solutions, consult TEC’s vendor showcase.
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