Time for the Lifeboat...
One of the best exercises that a company can do is a lifeboat drill. When faced with difficult choices of resource allocation, companies need to go back to first principles to decide what to do. Too often, companies make a choice between the last two things they are doing rather than question some fundamental assumptions.
The essence of the lifeboat drill is like zero-based budgeting. You begin with no assumptions of what's in and what's out. It forces you to really assess the priorities of every activity and every person associated with it. It can be a much bigger job than thinking incrementally, but it is definitely a worthwhile excercise to do, particularly for a whole team. You may find that other members of your team have different fundamental assumptions than you do. Getting these base-level priorities agreed upon is critical to getting everyone in the company moving in the same direction.
Another application of the lifeboat drill is when you are forced into a situation where you have to cut expenses, particularly in doing a layoff. If you really force prioritize every project and every person, it will be easier to make the decision about who you have to cut during these difficult times. Also, the prioritization drill will make it easier to communicate to your remaining employees why you made the choices you did and what tasks you will and won't do going forward.
Unfortunately, I think that the country needs to do a lifeboat drill, too (sorry, can't get politics out of my mind these days). I am apalled by our ballooning deficits and by the overextension of our military. We are waging an ill-conceirved foreign policy on the backs of of people whom we don't sufficiently care for when they return. The priorities are all wrong. I'd love to see a new administration really do a lifeboat drill on what our priorities are, ensuring we have our top priorities properly funded and having the discipline to cut off the priorities when we reach the limits of our ability to spend (and not borrow). If something is really important and beyond our current ability to afford it, shouldn't we be willing to raise revenues to pay for it?
A small thing triggered this in my mind. If you have visited an office building in a big city, you have undoubtedly gone through security checks with ID's verified, etc. This level of security has greatly increased since 9/11/01. Is this level of security really worth it? Or, did it just make us feel better after we all were so scared seven years ago? Certainly it wouldn't have stopped the types of attacks that have happened. And, it is probably easily thwarted by someone determined to do so. If I were a landlord in one of these buildings, I'd do the lifeboat drill to figure out if this level of spending is really necessary.