Put aside the myth of the ‘tamed’ business cycle. In the wake of the current economic downturn, managers must learn how to use the business cycle for competitive advantage.
In his 2004 MIT Sloan Management Review article “Principles of the Master Cyclist,” the author made the case for why companies need to learn how to integrate strategic business-cycle management into their tool kits. The article presented a set of principles that savvy managers can use in making tactical decisions (in areas such as inventory management, marketing and pricing) and strategic decisions (in areas such as capital expansion and mergers and acquisitions). At the time of publication, there was a growing perception that the business cycle had largely been “tamed” by the sophisticated application of discretionary fiscal and monetary policies. However, that myth has since been completely shattered–not just by the 2008-2009 recession but also by the U.S. Federal Reserve System’s role in formulating the economic policies that helped trigger the crash. In this current article, the author discusses the heightened importance of economic and financial market literacy and how smart forecasting can help companies manage the business cycle more effectively than their competitors.
The author highlights three major activities managers need to focus on: (1) developing and deploying
forecasting capabilities to anticipate movements and key turning points in the business cycle, (2)
applying well-timed business-cycle management strategies and tactics across the functional areas of the organization in a synergistic and integrative fashion, and (3) building an organization with a business cycle orientation, a facilitative structure and a supportive culture.