Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Economic Darwinism

Over the summer, I wrote an article in this space called It's Winter in July. The premise being that in these tough economic times everything you've done to this point in your career has culminated to your current market value. This article extends that subject in the form of what I call Economic Darwinism. Surprisingly, my Google searches on the term came up with hits but not in the way that I think of it.

Economic Darwinism in my mind is related to survival of the fittest. We have been in this downturn for over a year and it's been difficult. Lot's of layoffs, attrition, hard looks at the way we do business, and in many cases lots of change.

For the past year or so you have been in survival mode which is a good and healthy process. If you have survived being in survival mode then it likely means that you are built for what you are doing.

When you look around at your respective team members you likely see a strong set of individuals that as a group can deliver whatever needs to be delivered. In a culture of meritocracy, which for the most part describes software engineering, we have been transformed into lean teams with a kick-ass set of players that gets shit done. Yes, it was painful getting to this point, but the result is good.

If that accurately describes your situation, then from a leadership perspective the view should be "The recovery starts with us. The inevitable new phase of growth will be through this team. And through that inevitable growth there are opportunities for everyone."

Morale, whether poor or euphoric, is a state of mind. The thoughts bouncing around your cranium, regardless of whether they are verbalized or not, influence those whom you lead. It's your belief system that will - and does - significantly influence whether your team feels confident or insecure. Look around, see the strength of your team, and know that the recovery starts with you. If you believe that, confidence/morale will increase. If you choose otherwise then you should expect the malaise to continue.

Let there be no doubt that which ever side you land is all in your head. Your harvest is in part dependent on the seeds sown now in the Spring of this recovery.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly right, Jack. Your observation is substantiated by data. Productivity, a measure of efficiency, has risen 9.5% (annualized rate) in the third quarter. No coincidence that the US GDP grew at a 3.2% (annualized rate) in the same period.

    see this article for a more elaborate and precise breakdown of that information:


    Productivity is output divided by hours worked. Output rose 4% annualized while hours worked plunged 5%. This shows that those that survived are the most productive. the people that were laid off were actually pulling down the average level of productivity. Naturally, there is a sense of urgency when the threat of lay offs is consistently present, but I can't imagine that those not laid off are the same that are entirely motivated by negative consequences. These tend to be the more driven, ambitious and focused individuals anyway. For those reasons and many others, your are exactly right when you encourage these people to think "the recovery starts with us" because it does. It really does. The "survivors" boosted the US economy this past quarter.


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