Management Direction and the Turnaround

With the necessary financial and operational restructuring, plus the marketing re-positioning, it is easy to overlook a key factor that often proves to be critical to successful turnarounds: staff motivation. Reorganizing and involving not just the management team, but also the rank-and-file  are two essential tasks. The entire company must be pulling in the same direction to achieve optimal success. Involvement creates a “can-do” atmosphere that spreads to vendors, customers, and other stakeholders.

Involving Staff

It is imperative that appropriate changes be made to show that the executive team is committed to “doing whatever it takes.” Key employees should be encouraged to take an active role in the turnaround process, ensuring that they feel they are a vital part of the solution. Regularly scheduled management meetings are the new norm. In times of crisis, these meetings may need to occur daily; in profitable times biweekly should be adequate. Finding yourself and the team somewhere between crisis and optimization may be reason to vary the frequency of meetings, but they should never be more sporadic than once every two weeks.


Do not be afraid to ask employees their opinions about what motivates them to perform. These opinions can be used to develop performance measurements and incentive plans. Scrutiny of company policy manuals and benefits offered can help identify ways to enhance engagement. Also, discovering the most frequently encountered problems can reveal how managers are applying–or failing to apply–useful solutions. Project descriptions, summaries of the company’s performance in adhering to budget and time constraints, and brainstorming time to recommend better methods are good synergy building activities.


Some companies like to administer tests of ability to prospective employees. Yet, once the prospects are hired, there is very little training and development. Close supervision should yield observations about areas for improvement. It is the responsibility of management to find ways to challenge employees to grow in their capabilities–both technical and soft skills–throughout their careers. Developing professional growth plans and holding folks accountable to execute them is good for all. Tying performance measurement to the plans shows employees that you are serious about continuous improvement and results-based management.


The team is also responsible for cultivating the management team concept in hiring employees, meeting goals and objectives, and conducting individual performance reviews. In addition, management’s performance should be reviewed to locate and remove any team members who are preventing goals and objectives from being met.

Hiring people who complement one another is the first step in forming a cohesive management team. Effective hiring is accomplished through a careful planning and implementation process that parallels the general turnaround effort. Write down job requirements before the hiring process begins. Solicit qualified candidates; throw out applications/resumes that are out of scope. Referrals from suppliers and customers tend to be the best sources of candidates. Objective measurement of qualifications against standards you have developed will shorten the list to be interviewed. Personal references and one-on-one assessments with the prospect’s proposed work team will verify compatibility.

Employee participation in the decision-making process is needed–more so during a turnaround. While key employees should be encouraged to contribute actively during meetings, they may not be asked to vote on issues affecting them directly. Meetings should also be an opportunity to thank employees for a job well done. Rewarding a manager for adherence to budget and schedule without also recognizing her team detracts from the team concept.

Reorganizing Staff

Reassigning personnel and restructuring responsibilities demands management team decision-making. Decisions about incentive and performance programs require outside assistance in so far as tax and legal consequences are concerned, but the ideas and proposals should come from management team meetings.

Management should not exclude themselves from the reassignment process! It may be that the president, for instance, is most valuable to the company in a different capacity or focus area. Like all staff members, she should be prepared (especially during a turnaround) to work in a role where strengths can be put to maximum use!


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