puzzleNo matter what business they’re in, CEOs generally have plans that work well in good times. Now they have to think smaller, sometimes a lot smaller. But one area to protect is R&D. It can set the stage for future growth.

Slower business means bosses will be forced to cut payroll, or cut it more than they already have. As office workers go, most are experiencing anxiety over whether they will have a job. Those left on the job could form alliances, backstab, and wind up reducing the quality of their work.

You may have noticed that when business is good, busy people perform very well. When it’s not, they make more mistakes and don’t perform as well.

What can you do to keep people focused on your plans?

Authorities writing in Business Week say constant communication is a must. People are more willing to give of themselves if they know you’re in it for the long haul.

Be visible, walk the hallway and offices and hold meetings where everyone is invited.

Mitt Romney, who specialized in leading company turnarounds in the 1980s, says it’s very helpful to let people know the reality, which usually isn’t as bad as they fear.

While managers everywhere would be smart to plan on things getting worse before they get much better, Robert Reich, labor secretary, says it’s possible to be very hopeful and at the same time to be quite sober about what you are going through.

In any case, the rest of 2009 will be an uncertain time for those whose job it is to make decisions and for those who work for them.