How to Build Recession-Proof Processes

History tells us that while recessions are painful, they are a normal part of the business cycle. Since World War II, the United States has survived 13 economic recessions. The question is not whether it will happen again: it is whether your organization is prepared for when recession happens. 


Here are three ways you can build recession-proof processes to ensure your company not only survives but thrives during hard economic times:


1. Create an engine for process improvement.

Most organizations only do process improvement in preparation for a looming recession. They review existing processes to identify areas that can be improved for efficiency and effectiveness and pinpoint opportunities to optimize. However, if you want to build recession-proof processes, you have to make process improvement a part of your culture. 


Changing when there is nothing wrong keeps you not only ahead of the competition, but also for when a storm comes. This way, you are not going in just to fix one or two things when preparing for an expected downturn. Your organization has to continuously come up with ways to improve your processes even without an impending recession. Changing when things are stable is more effective because people are more stressed when faced with change in chaotic situations.


The challenge is that no one teaches us how to do process improvement. It is not taught in college or in business school. This is where my line of work comes in: I help companies build a process around process improvement. 


People are coming up with ways to make their work better, but they are just doing this in a variety of ways. The gap we face is that most often organizations do not have a standard way to improve. This is why we need to create a system to turn those ideas into action by standardizing process improvement. 


With an engine to do process improvement, your organization is able to proactively observe what processes need improvement and make changes in real-time to prevent future problems. This places you in a better position for when recession happens or when there is any change in your business environment. 


2. Solve process problems at their core.

In a post-recession survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, asking workers to suggest ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies is one coping mechanism that employers used during the 2007-09 recession. However, you do not have to wait for a recession to eliminate waste and reduce costs. 


Solving the root cause of process problems allows you to save your resources like time and money. By spending more time on the front end to understand the real cause of the problem, you can create solutions that stick. This way, you never have to deal with the same problem again. 


Addressing the root cause of process problems also saves you from spending money on solutions that do not actually work. For example, you might think that you need to add someone to a project to improve efficiency, when in fact you only need to clarify the roles and responsibilities of your existing employees.


3. Make your processes predictable and reliable.

While there is no guarantee that your organization will not suffer blows from market uncertainties, fluctuations and other negative effects of a recession, increasing the predictability of your processes can help you weather the storm. When your processes are predictable, your employees are capable of delivering the same high-quality service or product the same way every time. 


Making your processes predictable and reliable assures your customers, stakeholders and employees that your organization will deliver on its promise no matter what happens. They will continue to do business with you even when a recession happens.


According to a study by Ranjay Gulati and his colleagues, companies that emerged from the 2007-09 Great Recession in the strongest shape relied less on layoffs to cut costs and leaned more on operation improvements. 


The main takeaway here? Don’t wait for a recession to come to improve your operations. Recession-proofing your business must start long before the economic downturn arrives. What better way to do it than adopting a culture of process improvement?!


In love and respect,


Hilary Corna

Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


Leave a Reply

I am starting a revolution. One business and one person at a time.



When was the last time your inbox inspired you? Sign up today!

Thank you for subscribing!