In the early 1990s, downsizing became the hot trend throughout the for-profit corporate world.  Companies would make deep employee cuts, causing profits (and often stock prices) to rise, making senior executives temporarily look like heroes. While this focus on downsizing made the balance sheets look good in the short-term, many of these firms felt the impact of their cuts long-term. While claiming they were ‘cutting the fat,’ in most cases, they also cut a large chunk of the muscle. As critical departments and good employees went by the wayside at many firms, the quality of company products and services diminished, and ultimately revenue dropped. There have been several case studies written on the effectiveness of downsizing efforts in the 1990s. In most cases, when considering all costs, organizations did not end up ahead.

During this time, when short-term focus often dwarfed long-term considerations, a moment of clarity came in an interview with Southern Company CEO and President Bill Dahlberg when he simply stated, “No business can cut its way to success.”* The mantra became a rallying cry for decision-makers that saw the folly in over-cutting. A few forward-thinking executives proudly posted it on their office walls.

Due to the pandemic, we are all making difficult decisions regarding staff and program cuts. While many of these cuts are necessary to stay afloat, keep in mind that cutting strategies are only a short-term fix. Do what is necessary, but remember that a day will come when this pandemic is in the past. Your museum will need the skill sets and institutional memory required to ramp back up as tourism begins to increase again.

While taking short-term actions, keep the long-term in mind.

  • Source- Peters, Tom. The Circle of Innovation, 1997

Article by Frank Bennett, originally published at

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