‘D I P’ – An interesting phenomenon


I have always been intrigued by downturns, failures, slump, downslides; but more than this I am interested in how often we claim to have been caught by surprise when things take a turn for worse.  It’s always been interesting to me to see how some of us consciously try to defend by saying that we were caught unaware, or that everything was going good so far but this sudden slide…or we become creative to find some vague reason to justify that we were or are not at fault for this slide and the downturn.  Then there are some who just don’t understand what happened or why it happened and continue to keep wondering in vain.  And finally there are those little few, who actually tried what they could but still experience the downward spiral.  In reality, no one likes to fail or be a part of a failure.  But what [I think] we do not understand is that a failure is probably the most decisive and an extremely fertile phenomenon; only if we want to make a difference.  For those who don’t understand what happened or don’t care about it at all, they would never ever make any difference; so let us hop over them and move on to those who lose their sleep over this sudden downslide, those who want to make a difference – now these could be those who gave a reason or just accepted the state and want to start looking forward or rather upwards.

We always try to start our efforts in understanding what happened by critically analysing ‘what’ happened and try to establish ‘why’ it happened in a hope that we could uncover the errors, fixing which will help initiate the resurgence.  If so is the case, then why do we continue to see cases of repeated downslides, or why we are unable to successfully resurge.  But on the other hand we see some who have emerged completely rejuvenated, re-energized and firing on all cylinders.  Why do some teams or organizations go through a slow process of recovery while a few come out with a solid recovery and in fact lead a wave of improved services, offerings and performance – they lead the pack in their field of operations and often become the new paradigm thinkers of their space.

The ‘D I P’ thus is an interesting phenomenon.  To quench my curiosity and improve my understanding of this classic and; in some context; a desirable phenomenon, I studied quite a few teams [some of which I have worked with directly or indirectly], a few failed or semi-successful recoveries, a few out and out successes.

Here, I have tried to condense my understanding and present an illustrative schematic with various PHASES in DIP through TIME and have taken a shot at answering the How? Why? What? of this phenomenon.  I am continuing to improve my understanding of this phenomenon and would request you [the reader] to share your experiences and thoughts on this topic.

Stage 1: Ripples [Early Signs]

These are really the indicators any manager can clearly see and thus act.  But because of our method of functioning [in most cases], we generally are found fighting the fire and being reactive.  Fortunately, these ripples start slow and have spaces of time in between them.  But because we are mostly caught up in ‘urgent’ tasks [not necessarily ‘important’ ones] and are in reaction mode, we fail to utilize the period after a ripple to device and implement longer term corrective measures.  Our KPI’s may not always show us the right picture or the gravity of a potential situation or for that matter a pattern which is taking a shape.  With time, the spaces between ripples reduce and they become frequent; and this time they are spanned across different aspects or parameters of service.  It appears like rat holes.  And as always we are busy fighting the fire, one after the other… which exhausts and burns out teams’ and organization’s critical thinking abilities.

Stage 2: Slide … the ‘DIP’

Ripples are the causes and its effect generally is a pretty sudden disturbance.  This disturbance is a downward slide which takes place in a very short period of time, with hardly little time to think and course correct.  It generally results in poor client satisfaction, loss of client confidence and business, teams having very high stretch index with all their time invested in patch work resulting in eventual burnout.  Nothing seems to be going right.  The question thus is, why does this happen?

Dip generally is due to lack of timely course correction when the ripples have started to occur, wanting to address a problem from a longer term perspective instead of a mere short term patchwork.  In other cases, a dip occurs if the teams or organizations are not having enough foresight and agility to adapt to external environment and its conditions.  More often, it is observed that teams which slide into a downward spiral have silos of operations with very little interaction tending to lack of end to end knowledge which is needed to remain agile and in line with market conditions.  In some cases, lack of transparency in terms of organization’s vision, strategy, goals and / or there is no alignment of the systems-processes-people to these goals.  Overall, I feel this is largely to do with ‘culture’ in the teams or organizations.

3: Reconfigure – Restart

But thankfully, a dip always allows for a period of reconciliation, reconfiguration and re-initiation.  It always provides for just enough time and duration to correct the fatal issues, for implementing the right practices both at the team and organization level and set the tone for a desired culture.  If an organization can rightly utilize this patch of time and work hard, they can change the course of their performance from negative to positive; significantly increase client confidence resulting in higher client retention followed by improved client acquisition.  It allows for organizations and teams to reinvent their core and focus on what makes the biggest difference to their clients and more importantly to the individuals in the team, it helps them maximize the utilization of individual talents towards a common unified goal.

As for every situation, there could be one of the two outcomes – Positive Recovery or Negative Slump.

4: Outcome – Positive Recovery

Here are some observations I have made from my analysis of those who have used a dip to their advantage.

  • This is the time for the leaders and managers to show courage and lead by example.
  • Proactively analyse the causes, blanket rule to ban the blame-game.
  • Do not take on or focus on too many things.  Focus only on a few critical and high impact items.
  • Set a very clear direction for the short term and explain its impact on the medium and/or longer term objectives.
  • Be willing to take risks, being unconventional and thinking out of the box… participative management is best suited in such situations.
  • Set clear targets and place accountability, give autonomy and be prepared as leaders to back up the team for what they do.
  • Lay very high emphasis on the right culture and never compromise on it.
  • As a leader, always walk the talk.  Never doubt the potential of the team and their ability to accomplish targets.
  • Continue to instil vigour, motivation, and energy.

5: Outcome – Negative Slump

There are some unfortunate cases where some teams or organizations fail to utilize the most fertile phase of the dip and experience at times a fatal slump.  What I have observed is that these teams or organizations…

  • Have inward looking managers or leaders.
  • Resort to placing the blame instead of analysing what cause the failure and wanting to fix it.
  • Fail to instil right culture or correct the cultural issues.
  • Have a very low or unclear accountability structure.
  • Seldom or are mostly unwilling to take risks or be unconventional.
  • More often than not, lack a strong and proactive leadership.
  • Fail to make hard decisions, like for example weeding out those who do not align with the culture; not choosing the right focus points etc.

Overall, I feel that a dip is like a forest fire.  If it is handled well, it sets the tone for renewed progress and even better prosperity.  It pushes you to the wall, makes you think hard and question yourself – in other words, forces you to think out of the box.  It helps you be lean and agile.  Innovation and foresight thus becomes a part of your team / organization culture, constantly challenging the status quo, seeing through the numbers and understanding the patterns to act now rather than later… and continue to keep pushing yourself upwards.

I believe that the DIP is a very interesting phenomenon, it is inevitable.  Welcome it, be confident through it and make the fullest out of it, it has the potential to change your course forever.

What has been your experience being in a dip or seeing a dip?

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