Harvard Business Review

The Long View Versus the Short View

01 June 2009 | Source: Harvard Business Review

It has been in the air for some time now, this all talk around the fast food generation — or the Facebook Generation as Gary Hamel prefers to term the Generation Y — and its so-called incessant need to live in the moment.

The importance of savouring the moment is not new to us. It has been taught to us for ages in scriptures, fables, poems…and new-age self help books. And yet, this speed-addicted “now” generation has glimpsed what corporate leaders around the world seem to be missing in the fog of this downturn.

Despite all the uncertainty surrounding layoffs and pay cuts, a large majority of young people interviewed in a recent KPMG survey rated training and development higher and more important than job security or salary. They also made it clear that the attitudes of the young had changed, with 83 per cent of students admitting they were planning more carefully in view of the recession. Nearly 72 percent were widening their sector choices to keep their options open.

While students are going steady and thinking long-term, despite the pressure to grab the first available job, corporate leaders seem to be doing the reverse. Yet the current business paradigm is crying for a long-term view, calling for building a sustainable economic environment. To do so, companies must reinvent their business models, revisit their market strategies and most importantly reignite their employee policies. We must respond — but not react — to the recession and its challenges.

Developing products to meet the challenges of tomorrow will be one essential step. In 2005, we had very few believers in the potential of integrated services by outsourcing. We decided to chase it as part of our blue ocean strategy and announced big deals. The rest of the market followed soon after.

I firmly believe that when the current slowdown ends and growth returns, it is unlikely to come back in the same shape and size. And so instead of building on services that have reached their threshold, it is time to find the next big idea. Our five-year investment in utility computing is taking shape and was recently recognised by Gartner. You, too, should be staying ahead of the race and investing in ideas for tomorrow.

Developing the market is the next level. Our decision to form a merger with Axon in these “uncertain” times was questioned by many. But acquisitions are not decisions dictated by the needs of the moment. They are about assuming responsibility for bigger things — like the long-term direction of the company.

These are also times for corporate leaders to invest in their most important asset — their people. The current downturn has meant a worldwide hiring freeze. I believe there is a lot to learn here from automobile companies and their ways of reducing inventory cost and waste. Instead of bulk hiring, companies will now need to bring in a “just in time” hiring system that would remove the inventory cost but provide the flexibility of picking up good talent any time from the market — and bring the focus to training and development. This will further ensure that companies don’t have to lay off employees, but simply teach them a different skill set as needed. The only way companies will beat the recession is by empowering their employees to be prepared for the future and by ensuring they act as agents of change, rather than its victims.

Yes, the paradigm has shifted. But when has it ever remained the same? Bad times can be good. And it is time we responded to the opportunity this recession presents rather than simply reacting to it.

Originally posted on Vineet Nayar’s Blog site on Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2009/06/the-long-view-versus-the-short