Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cost Cutting - Scalpel or Chainsaw for Turnaround Success?

Is your company still in the cost cutting mode? I don’t mean are you still concerned about controlling costs, since that should be an ongoing mantra in good times as well as bad. I mean, are you focused on cutting costs to continue to survive?

By now you will have cut out the obvious excesses and are down to the hard choices. What will you use for turnaround success, the chainsaw method or the scalpel?

The chainsaw method sees this as a relatively simple solution to a tough problem. Is there a plan? Yes! Generally it is a simple one. Either take a percentage of cost out of all functions or look at the largest expenditures and cut them. Large “chunks” of cost are cut away and the rest stand as it may. In terms of a quick fix, this method works. Costs are very quickly reduced. However, generally there are severe consequences for both the short term and long term.

In the short term, there is chaos since the cuts have been done without a fully developed plan. What is left may not be able to function effectively or at all due to the elements that have been removed. Employees with specific skills have been lost and others with lesser or without those skills are required to take their place. Processes will not function efficiently. In the long term, the company may have cut the resources and programs that are going to be required to turn the company around and enable it to survive in the upturn. Once the people or the initiatives are lost, regaining them will be very difficult. It is also a major challenge to ignite the organization to achieve and repair the damage to the culture. If your company has used the chainsaw method, you will be able to add many other consequences to the list from your personal experience.

The scalpel method starts with the business plan which reflects the current pressures from the economy but also capitalizes on the core competencies and the requirements for longer term success. The total cost reduction target is identified and employees throughout the organization participate in identifying areas that can be cut, postponed or done more cost effectively to reach that target. In doing this, the consequences of how the company will function post the cuts are reviewed and plans made. This much more orderly cost cutting process not only reaches the targets in the short term, it also sets the company up for success longer term.

Both of these methods benefit from expert assistance. The chainsaw method needs analysis and solutions as to how to recover from the damage done in getting to the lower cost level. The scalpel method benefits from help in the planning and implementation process.

As a turnaround expert, I have worked with companies and both methods. In the chainsaw method, I am brought in after the fact to resurrect the company and help breathe life back into it. Additional help is generally required to execute the plans, since key company people have either been laid off or quit. This can be expensive. In the scalpel method, I am brought into analyze the challenges and the opportunities in reaching the cost saving goals and then create and execute the business plan that delivers. This is a much more productive exercise.

If your company has used the chainsaw method, contact me. I can help you pull out of the consequences. If your company still requires additional cost savings, contact me and I can help you use your scalpel.



John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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