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Management article
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Reference no. R1004G
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 2010

Abstract

When companies face financial shortfalls and market pressures-as virtually all of them have over the past two years-they typically slash innovation cycles, cut personnel, and raise performance goals. They often succeed brilliantly at doing more with less-for a time. But when employees are pushed to work at a fevered pitch every day, month after month, their energy fails. Error rates rise, exhaustion and resignation blanket the company, the best employees defect, and the company's performance suffers. To escape from this acceleration trap, declare an end to the current high-energy phase and have employees abandon less important tasks. And to avoid the trap in the future, institute stop-the-action initiatives, limit the company's goals, and require that project-management systems put the kibosh on mediocre ideas. Equally important is to change the company's accelerated culture: Focus on just one thing for a specified period of time, institute time-outs to give employees time for rejuvenation, and mandate periods of calm between crises.

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Abstract

When companies face financial shortfalls and market pressures-as virtually all of them have over the past two years-they typically slash innovation cycles, cut personnel, and raise performance goals. They often succeed brilliantly at doing more with less-for a time. But when employees are pushed to work at a fevered pitch every day, month after month, their energy fails. Error rates rise, exhaustion and resignation blanket the company, the best employees defect, and the company's performance suffers. To escape from this acceleration trap, declare an end to the current high-energy phase and have employees abandon less important tasks. And to avoid the trap in the future, institute stop-the-action initiatives, limit the company's goals, and require that project-management systems put the kibosh on mediocre ideas. Equally important is to change the company's accelerated culture: Focus on just one thing for a specified period of time, institute time-outs to give employees time for rejuvenation, and mandate periods of calm between crises.

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