Surviving not just the crash but the slump to come

Whether or not they are correct, the markets are factoring in global slump, not just recession. Karl Flinders has commented on the short actions the Banks were taking before the latest crash. The time has come to go beyond my comments on surviving recession

I am a believer in Kondratieff waves: the unprovable long run economic cycles. If you look at past “waves”, it is the period of slump that is also the period of greatest change. More-over the UK public sector faces the 21st century equivalent of Geddes Axe – whether or not it is the “right” answer,.

At a recent CIO round table (reported in Computer Weekly 7 – 13 October) I said optimisation was not a safe approach. Safety is about least risk solutions, including decoupling that which was previously been integrated, so as to reduce the risk of domino effects, whether along supply chains or across interlinked systems.   

In a blog early last month I said we had crossed a watershed: data losses, service interruptions in the long haul internet and changing terms of trade with India and China meant that outsourcing and offshoring were ceasing to be attractive for mission critical applications.

As with Shackleton’s crossing of South Georgia after his epic boat vopyage, the way down the other side of the watershed is fraught with danger. His team was intoxicated on a mix of determination, exhaustion and adrenalin. Provided you have a Shackleton in charge that mix can get you through crisis, but the long haul of recovery requires that and more..

So what is my advice for CIOs in large organisations:public or private?  

1) read Machiavelli, “The Prince” – especially the section on Mercenaries 

2) look at the behaviour of your suppliers in helping you weather this storm

3) look at your organisation’s behaviour towards suppliers in helping them weather this storm

4) consider whether you really are in a genuine long-term strategic partnerships – willing to fight, and if necessary risk death, for each other

5) then look at your relations with your peers in your own organisation 

6) now decide whether to join the fight to save the ship (or beach it and build a new one from the wreckage), to join with those trust and grab a lifeboat (or buiild a liferaft) or to jump and get it over with.

If you decide to join the fight, read your Shackleton, his own words, those of his men, those of his backers, those of his biographers – and then his own words again,  

If you decide to jump I would pass on some of the tips from my RNR survival training: the bit that came after damage control, firefighting, knowing your way the ship upside down in the dark etc. , with instructors had been sunk at least once during Worlld War 2:

– jump feet first is usually safer but you die more slowly if do you hit wreckage

– if the food runs out – cook human flesh as for pork

– if the rum runs out – filter admiralty duplicating fluid through six layers of burnt toast.

My father, who survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp despite having been given up for dead twice, also advised spending any spare time from survival in looking for plans B, C, D and E – they might not be realistic but the exercise kept your spirits up.   

In future blogs I will be more positive because a full-blown depression really is a time of more innovation and change than even the most giddy of booms. The world changed far more, the spread of the automobile, wireless, household electric goods and even diet improvements, in the period 1930 – 37 than in the period 1920 – 7. The bigger long-run challenge is to prevent protectionism and recrimination turning into persecution and re-armament,