The Broadway play Chapter Two reminds us that lives are
broken into chapters. This is also true about America’s
corporate life. We saw the nation go from agriculture to
manufacturing in the last hundred or so years closing the
chapter on farming and beginning a chapter on mass
production. The next chapter for America’s economy has
begun, a chapter which sees mid- and large size-
corporations continually looking t ways to trim expenses in
order to compete in a tough economy. Downsizing first
became popular in the late 1980s as companies began to
focus on the bottom line. It continued for many years saving
a good number of today’s corporations from extinction.
However as the economy grew, these downsized
companies upsized once again. Like popular fad diets, the
weight they had lost was put back on along with some extra
pounds.

As we see the downsizing trend occurring again, we must
realize it is likely to be more permanent as record numbers
of employees see their names on the downsized list. So
many individuals are affected that some companies are
prospering from this trend.

Properly downsizing can be prosperous to any company,
adding to the bottom-line in a very short time frame. But
improper downsizing has the potential an unrecoverable
nosedive into the wastelands of corporations past. In any
downsized company, employees that remain will wonder if
they have really survived or if their name in an undeclared
wave of layoffs still to come. Leaders find that they have
fewer people to do the work, but just as much work needing
to be done. Employees wonder why they have more tasks to
do and nothing extra in their paycheck. These conditions can
add up to disaster that not only affects the downsized
company, but also impacting their customers and suppliers.

Following the downsize trend of the late last century
teamwork became so popular that it became a way of life
across many, if not all, sectors of the supply chains. Each
facet of the chain pushed work and analysis further down the
chain in such a way that today’s downsizing has a
completely different character. This means that at any sales
portion of the supply chain (IE: raw goods to assembler) the
seller must be willing to team with the customer in order to
maintain and grow business. It is not a difficult task to do
once one gets beyond on argument that it is not the job of
the seller, but it is one that must be diligently researched and
developed. Companies that do not get involved in the team
will be left in the dugout as their competitors take to the field.

Proper downsizing involves many aspects of gaining
employee trust, leadership training, and a review of the
organizational structure. It must be coupled with a fresh
approach and outlook to the business that states, “This is a
new beginning, not an end; this is the time for all levels of
employees to become fully committed and connected to our
success and future together.”

Thomas Hickok observes that downsizing is only successful
when it is accompanied by this form of true culture change.
In his essay he points to Xerox and General Electric as proof
of this point. Certainly these activities can range from lip-
service to formalities, but as Hickok’s examples show, true
change must be sought after from the top down. Where there
has been a genuine striving to look optimistically at the new
opportunity a downsized company has, considering the
positive impact to the bottom-line and vibrant opportunity to
compete as a leaner, lower cost organization the success
rate is staggeringly positive.

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