The caricature of a company turnaround is often a quite bloody and brutal affair. We arrive on a scene, identify the dead weight, and chop it away in an orgy of firings and divestments.

There is some truth to this: in an organisation of any size, some people probably do need to be cut loose.  The surprising thing is that the axe doesn’t normally fall where the management team expects it to.

If you’re aiming to restore organisational agility, and you’ve gotten to the truth, and you’re treating your people with respect – it’s now time to start evaluating and developing the team’s true capabilities.  You can do this the traditional and bloated way, and completely miss the point: by hiring in external interviewers and psychometric testers or – if you’d rather have results this year – you can do it the agile way: assign everybody objectives and let them carry them out without interfering.




It sounds simple, but if you combine this exercise with the four-question method I shared with you last week, something quite dramatic takes place.  An accountability culture begins to take hold.  People who were formerly unaccountable and disengaged start taking their projects every bit as seriously as you take your own.

Surprising people come to the fore: recognising Sarah’s personal strengths in such a scenario, I once promoted her as my PA to manage a factory with 400 staff.  (HR were horrified, but with the right support she became very successful)  When you get the model right: surprising people flounder – political animals, who work harder on managing your perception of them than on actually delivering results, are quickly exposed.  Here, of course, is where your axe should actually fall.

The benefits are enormous.  Imagine your organisation seeded with mini CEOs throughout, its harmful personalities redirected.  This is true business transformation, and achieving it is within your grasp.  Two tips: (1) use the four question model with your people, and (2) fight your temptation to solve their problems for them.

I guarantee particularly if you are faced with a severe challenge  if you respect your team enough to let them develop their own solutions,  they will definitely amaze you and free you to do your own job.

with best wishes,

Tom Pickering

Winner 2015 Global Turnaround Firm of the Year