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Detroititis And Management 2.0

Is your company suffering from Detroititis?

A term coined by Gary Hamel, author of "The Future of Management" and writer of a recently started management blog, Management 2.0 on The Wall Street Journal, is more than anything else, a 21st century concept.

It pertains to companies who fail to visualize that today’s customers demand appeal and finesse in products and not just low cost and usage.

While Mr. Hamel exemplifies his theory with the example of Apple’s introduction of the first Mac, how does the same theory apply to smaller firms and all the companies out there where CEOs are struggling to keep an even balance sheet and support the new mantra of “Flat is the new up?” Two weeks ago Vault CEO Erik Sorenson wrote about how 2009 has already resulted in six CEO ousters, and at the time he posted the blog, it had been a little over two weeks into the New Year. You can read the complete article here.

It goes without saying that surviving the current economy is going to remain a challenge in the short term, stimulus package or not. With this realization behind us, how do CEOs and their team of executives continue to drum up motivation not only among their team, but also their audience and customer base? There are a few simple ways of doing this:

1) Management 2.0: Very similar to the appeal Web 2.0 carries, Management 2.0 dictates that chief execs modernize their managing style and adapt themselves to not only a much savvier generation of users, but also an aggressive demand for neatly packaged and quick information. Management 2.0 means interacting openly with employees and customers, gauging their demands in layman terms before introducing a product, realizing that just because a product is cost effective and produces a usability, it isn’t enough anymore for it to have a good market. Ease of use, appeal, intuitiveness and looks are important today more than ever. In summary, get out of the corner office and live and breathe with the consumers, even if it means sitting as part of the open-floor-plan office. Shed the corner, grasp the center.

2) Vaccinate for Detroititis: Try to keep your products clean, simple and easy to understand. Whether you deal in software, hardware, media products, financial bonds, investment options or more intangible goods like career and professional services. Users, especially in the online world, will gravitate and be willing to buy an interactive and intuitive model than a cheaper, chunkier and harder to navigate one. For example, if you are in the market to find a cost-effective and highly efficient job search tool, it is more than likely that you will punch in your credit card information for a service that works with your specific keywords, remembers your searches, allows you to search by various options and shows you the job posting without too many clicks and navigational messages. Websites that ask you to view an ad or submit your resume before previewing the actual job requirements work counter-intuitively and hence lose customers in the long term. So emphasize design, not just usability and cost, and keep your team aware of the product goals. What the market demands must be in alignment with what your team is building.

3) Be the BMW of your product: The fact that Detroit is currently in a crisis quantifies most efficiently why the quality of a product is far more important than just its cost. For the most part, defectors of General Motors et al say that the American auto industry has survived as long as it has because of American patriots who refuse to drive Japanese or German and not necessarily because Detroit has consistently manufactured quality vehicles. Recognize the level of your product and take advantage of the current downturn to quietly pull your product up a few notches in quality and attractiveness.

4) Employee Incentive: Once you’ve covered all the bases on your product’s attractiveness, it’s time to rank up your team’s morale. With layoffs happening all around us on a daily basis, with chances being that your company has had at least one round if not more, it might be the best time to show your team some transparency. Hold meetings with small groups and encourage questions, be honest but don’t be an SEC filing. You don’t want to boggle minds with data, but you do want to give them directional advice; ask for ideas to increase revenue, you never know who in the team might have a brilliant unexplored avenue for revenue; assure your employees that they will be enablers in surviving a tough year with you, not the disablers while you fight the market alone in your office. Employee incentives don’t always have to be monetary in nature; an honest talk can do wonders for employee confidence and a morale boost.

While the above are but a few simple pointers, they can go far in retaining your most precious resource in trying times: your human capital. If your services/products are catering to market demand and your team is on the same page as you and your company’s balance sheet, you will not only survive 2009, you might even emerge a winner.

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Aman Singh is an Editor with Vault and works with Fortune 500 companies on reporting their diversity recruitment strategies and initiatives

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com