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Invest in Growth, Savings or Risk Reduction?

June 26, 2009

ABPMP Denver put on a great panel discussion on Tuesday evening on the topic of the state of project work in the current economy. First thanks to the great panelists for sharing a collective generation of great insight: Bill Gilbert, EVP and COO, Statera; Donald Davidoff, Group VP Strategic Systems, Archstone; and David Neitz, VP Solutions and Innovation, Fiserv Investment Support Services.

I’ve been ruminating on a lot of the topics covered, but the one I keep coming back to is the answers to the question ‘what are companies investing in in today’s economy.’  The answer from the panel was basically, ‘It’s all about risk mitigation in 2009.’ While I get that, it seems like conventional wisdom perhaps goes against best wisdom in this case.

Conventional wisdom states that:

  • In good time, companies invest in growth
  • In bad times, companies invest in savings
  • In really bad times, companies invest in risk reduction

I suggest this should be turned around:

In good times, irrational exuberance suggests that companies might spend more time and effort looking for their blind spots and focus on reducing any risks that could displace what is working today or could work against them when tides turn. Especially the recent history of Enron and Leman Brothers has shown that blindly chasing the greatest new ideas can be catastrophic.

In really bad times, companies have the luxury to investigate new opportunities more rationally. They can take their time in developing, and perfecting new offerings, and take advantage of lower costs and more resource availability to grow. There is a lot of recent buzz about great companies founded in recessions.

In all times, companies should be able to use well justified business cases to invest in savings and continuous improvement of current business processes.

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