Many turnaround efforts begin by firing people and bringing in a fresh team. It’s easy to understand: This is the group, after all, that’s presided over the downturn. Clearing the decks is not always an option, however. Company history may stand in the way. The external environment may make it impossible. Other limitations may be in place.
That’s not necessarily a problem: CEOs can turn around a failing business with the people they already have. It just requires a management approach that unlocks the full energy of the organisation.
The recent experience of a venerable but struggling South African retailer illustrates this powerful lesson. The chain of 200 stores had lost sight of what it stood for, expanding too far beyond its original mission. Sales and profits had begun to drop fast.
To fully understand what the issues were, the incoming CEO started with a rapid but holistic review of business performance — something that any new leader can do as part of his or her ‘100-day plan’ — assessing the strength of the team and the health of the business while at the same time working to set overall strategy. Once examined, the retailer’s data pointed to a solution that was quite straightforward and practical. The company needed to do what it used to be good at, and do it really well.
GETTING BACK TO BASICS
The CEO brought together people from across the organisat