Management by Panic: Overcome the Crisis du Jour Panic– UnPush the Panic Button– Think, Pause, Avoid, Trust…

Management sends an email to employees, saying; Don’t Panic– Everything is Under Control! Tell it like it is: Tough times demand tough talk and you owe it to your people to be honest and truthful. Don’t gloss over serious concerns, but focus on the facts: Most important do not– panic. Panic is that sudden sensation of fear, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking; it’s an overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frantic agitation consistent with an animalistic– fight-or-flight reaction…

Prehistoric humans used mass panic as a technique when hunting herds of animals. Likewise, modern humans are also vulnerable to panic, and it’s often considered infectious, in the sense that one person’s panic may easily spread to others and soon the entire group acts irrationally. However, people also have the ability to prevent or control their own and others’ panic by disciplined thinking and training…

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According to Bob MacDonald; In many cases, management is slow to recognize and act on a crisis, however, when it does it often– turns to its bag of tricks and pulls out the only anti-crisis tool it seems to have– panic! Then, emergency management meetings are called to deal with the crisis. Questions are asked: What are we going to do? Answers are given: Cut costs, reduce capacity, downsize and lay off workers. What a crock!

Most management groups plan and act on the assumption of good times forever. The flaw in this philosophy is that good times are not forever. In fact, businesses move in cycles – good and bad. That means that when bad times arrive, as they always will, then management is ill-equipped to deal with them… and panic ensues. When knee-jerk, short-term decisions are made to meet the current crisis, then the very core and capability of the company can be destroyed, then the company is ill-equipped to respond when times turn better… By definition a well-run company is one that will run well in bad times as well as good times…

In the article Management by Panic by Patrick A. Cowan writes: Unlike ‘management by exception’ or ‘management by objective’ or other management techniques; ‘management  by panic’ is not widely discussed, understood, or recommended by anyone. What happens when we resort to management by panic for running a business? It’s impending doom! Management by panic may actually result in a catastrophic loss on the business. Panic is often defined as ‘sudden and often overpowering fear’… What causes panic? You guessed it: Impending doom! In order to fully understand management by panic– we need to look at the five R’s; recognition, reaction, regret, rationalize, and repetition…

Recognition is more than the absolute point when we realize that the light in the tunnel actually is the proverbial train. It’s that point when we realize that we have not planned for alternative courses of action… Some situations are unforeseeable; but, it’s rare that ‘impending doom’ doesn’t come with adequate foreshadowing: ‘Oh that’s a train; I better get off tracks in a hurry.’ When in panic mode; decisions we make are frequently not rational, not well thought out, or not even the best course of action…

With management by panic, we often apply the gas before we have a clear understanding of direction… The answer for reducing panic is to install, both; early warning mechanisms and effective remedial processes. While these safeguards may not eliminate all unknown conditions that may affect the company, they should minimize risk and provide guidance when action is required…

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In the article Panic and the Rise of Micro-Management by Paul McCord writes: Consider scenario: Sales are slowing dramatically, profits are down or gone, and pressure is increasing at all management levels to; produce, produce, produce… Along with pressure to produce comes leadership’s need to micro-management the sales team. For example; managers are required to have daily sales pipeline meetings with their team. Increasingly the meetings get uglier with increasing threats; if sales don’t improve. Leadership make daily calls to sales managers; looking for detailed accounting for each sales team member’s activities, including; reviewing sales status of each, ever prospect.

Panic sets-in; salespeople are bombarded with ultimatums, and each second of their time is being micro-managed… Morale declines and sales lag even further, but management continues to give more directives, demanding– greater control and more accountabilityHowever, once management panics; it seems impossible to stop the downhill flow of negative consequences. The more pressure management feels, the more they spread it downward, believing they can demand improved performance via force… 

However, if micro-management is such a negative force: Why do managers resort to it? The root cause is based squarely on– trust. Times are tough, but that doesn’t mean that it’s time for– a management meltdown. Gaining the trust, cooperation, and commitment of your team to engage and effectively act on the important issues facing the company is more likely to get improved performance, than– panic and micro-management

In the article Power of Small Wins in Times of Panic by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer write: In today’s economy, leaders are realizing that business as usual just won’t cut it, and are being motivated to radically rethink their approach for managing people. Organizations need employees to be as productive and creative, as possible.

However, the solution doesn’t require a massive new program, but it does require convincing managers at all levels, in organization, that they must support their subordinates’-work progress every day, even if that progress is simply an incremental step forward; a small win. This application of the progress principle is the best way to keep employees engaged at work, boosting their creativity, productivity, and propensity to help coworkers.

Eventually, those small wins lead to real, bottom-line business success. There are several catalysts for jump-starting progress; managers must start with the three worker’s fundamentals: meaningful work, clear goals, and autonomy. Workers must understand how their work contributes to something they can care about– a mission with meaning. There must be clear goals for each project, so that workers know what they are working toward–the goal...

Workers must be given reasonable autonomy to use their talent and expertise to be productive and reach–the goal. Ideally, the goal includes; interim achievable milestones, so that small wins can happen early, and often. Above all, managers must stay alert and neutralize, as much as possible, the progress inhibitors that reduce the probability of producing those important small win… Many small wins are the drivers for achieving the goals and avoiding crisis and panic…

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In the article Cut Out the Doom and Gloom Talk by John writes: Business leaders must– think ahead: If your company is experiencing serious difficulty, consider how you will explain and deal with it. For example: Do not use words like ‘stupid’ and ‘idiotic’ when referring to senior managers. You may feel like saying that, but avoid using them. Use words such as ‘challenged’ or ‘unaware’. Blaming individuals is good for blowing off steam but it’s not good for instilling faith and motivation…

Pause before you speak: When you are asked a question about the business; pause, before you answer. The pause radiates calmness. It demonstrates that you are in control. You may not be; but you want your team to believe that you are holding things together. The pause also gives you time to gather your thoughts and to cool down if you are feeling overwrought. Avoid hyperbole; just as you would not pour gasoline over an open flame, you do not use words like ‘disastrous’, ‘catastrophe’, ‘meltdown’…

Such words escalate tensions; a leader’s job is to de-escalate tension. Instead, you can say; ‘serious’, ‘tough’, and ‘wrongheaded’– these words make your point without raising an employee’s blood pressure. Convey urgency; tough times demand tough talk, but make sure you talk in ways that focus on what people need to do rather than what they cannot do. That is, talk specifically about how employees– can do more with fewer resources… Avoid blame; instead, accept ownership for the things you can control, like your work ethic and attitude.

Of course, there are times when things are really bad, and will only get worse: Play straight, deliver news, don’t over editorialize, and spend more time on the cold hard facts. Show concern, not hysteriaThe leadership must communicate more through action and less through words. Be available to listen to what people have to say. Never over-promise, and don’t over-frighten. In tough times, words matter; leaders must choose them carefully.

A little paranoia is healthy for a business. It means never being satisfied with the way things are. According to Mary Aichlmayr; it’s the foundation of continuous improvement, which assumes that the absence of problems is a problem. In downturn, slightly paranoid organizations continue to invest, with caution, in new technologies, process, and systems that will lead to competitive advantage when better times return. They enhance customer service by accurately and completely delivering on promises…

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When cutting labor costs is unavoidable, they find other ways to motivate the best employees to maintain productivity today, and avoid disruptive turnover tomorrow. They devote time and energy to mission-critical resources and get rid of wasteful practices that don’t support overall objectives. Their constructive fear drives them to calculate every decision. And they always have a carefully prepared and tested– Plan B; just in case. These surgical skills, combined with a bit of paranoia, will help any operation overcome– the crisis du jour panic, and the many more to come…

Hysteria is impossible without an audience. Panicking by yourself is the same as laughing alone in an empty room. You feel really silly. ~Chuck Palahniuk