Whenever the economy goes south. Things get scary. The natural tendency is to hunker down, batten down the hatches and wait out the storm. However, tough times also represent an opportunity, especially when it comes to product development. In a white paper I recently wrote, I looked at whether investment in improving work practices is worth the investment during such times. Here's a quick outtake.

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This eBook is of most value to engineering directors and managers weighing whether to invest budget in training programs for enabling technologies.


The economy is just plain bad. Customers are harder to reach. They are less willing to spend. There is more competition. Overall, it’s harder to run a business. None of this is news any longer, its just reality. What isn’t so clear is how to operate under such conditions. For many, the first instinct is to hunker down and wait things out. Others actually see difficult times as an opportunity to get a leg up on competitors and are investing accordingly. Regardless of the approach, an important aspect of operational strategy is employee work practices. Almost every organization is running leaner. Many people were let go as part of cost control measures. Hiring has been tight across the board. So organizations have to make do with the employees they have. In that light, organizational leaders must keep two things in mind: efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Employees must be efficient in how they execute tasks. Many have so many responsibilities that they can ill afford to spend inordinate amounts of time on any one of them. They must be able to complete their tasks and move on.
  • Yet it’s not just about getting the task done. Employees must also be effective in how they execute tasks, meaning that they must do the task well. Poor execution not only turns into needless repetition but also negatively impacts others downstream.

Ultimately, work practices affect how effective and efficient they are in a role. The quality of these practices directly impacts the productivity of the entire organization. Of course, practices can vary dramatically, some are good and some are bad. Organizations can invest in an effort to improve those practices. However, with cost controls often tight, organizational leaders face a difficult question: is such an investment worth it?