TURNAROUND

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Drawing on three decades of helping organizations solve seemingly intractable problems, Gable presents the tenets and principles of her method for turning around situations when things go south and all hope seems lost. “The organization is hobbled by competition,” she posits, or “a revolving door of project leads, managers, consultants, and leaders” try without success to fix the problem. She begins by breaking down some of the most common reasons why things go wrong—founders stick around long after their original dreams and motivations have become outdated, bosses indulge in company-damaging hubris, the raw economics of the project make its ultimate results impossible, and, perhaps most importantly, managers become stuck in one “cookie-cutter” model and resist trying new things. Gable writes, “Today we recognize that to solve problems creatively, you need as many diverse voices working on them as possible.” Gable claims that her method has been “battle-tested” out in the real world, and it’s based on four basic steps: visualizing the future, analyzing the past, creating a plan to move from the present to the future, and then executing that plan with “speed, confidence, and heart.” Gable fleshes out these general principles with specific examples from her own past and case studies where her ideas have been executed properly. 

Her own anecdotes, all smoothly and invitingly told, are all teamwork stories (when she’s hired as CEO of a food allergy research company, for instance, the changes she describes are all community-based, as are so many descriptions throughout the book). A crucial current running through the various “turnaround” principles is an implicit rejection of the savior complex that tends to rule the roost in the business world. As Gable’s recollections make clear over and over, salvaging an impossibly tangled situation requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. “You want to incentivize everyone involved in your turnaround to invest, work with you, and execute in a matter that supports the new future.” That “new future” is another key feature of Gable’s outlook: Although the temptation in any debacle is to obsess over the mess, Gable emphasizes the importance of having a clear plan for the future as the ultimate counterbalance to finger-pointing. She refreshingly ranges her advice regarding where a problem might reside, from a flawed corporate vision to poor management of assets. And although some readers may find her personal business-world anecdotes a bit too excessive (they very much outweigh the book’s more theoretical portions), those stories serve an important cumulative purpose: They show her principles in action, demonstrating how they work in real situations with real people. “Change brings anxiety,” she writes. “People feel bounced around as their reality shifts, and uncertainty grows.” Those “bounced around” people—Gable’s readers who’ve found themselves caught up in some horribly dysfunctional problem—will find a good deal of hard-won wisdom in these pages.

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