Turnaround Management is like Surgery

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Turnaround Management > Best Practices > Turnaround Management is like Surgery

Turnaround Management is like Surgery
Jagdish B Acharya, Consultant, India, Premium Member
If an organisation is viewed as a person and its health is taken as its condition then management is the sum of its good practices to keep it healthy, and a turnaround is the treatment when it has fallen sick.
Managers are like doctors who treat organisations and turnaround managers are like surgeons who have to intervene and do major operations.
The solution will depend on problems afflicting organisation but in essence it is treatment for ailments.

Is Downfall Due to Internal or External Factors?
Agni Chatterjee, Student (MBA), India, Member
When we talk about turnaround management, we basically talk about building strategies to rebuild or renew an organisation. Root Cause Analysis being the first step towards this process, the most important thing to keep in mind is to see whether the downfall of an organisation is due to internal pressures or lack of internal capabilities, or due to the external environment. If it's due to internal pressure then we can take necessary steps and revamp the whole organisation and restructure it, but restructuring an organisation facing challenges posed external pressure is not in anybody's hand. An organisation gone down due to external forces is very difficult to revive. If their is no market for the product an organisation is making, no turnaround management plan can save it.

Turnaround Like Surgery
Frederick Price, Philippines, Member
I do not at all agree with you. A surgery is a predetermined, preplanned approach to solving a medical problem. A turnaround manager must undertake several tasks simultaneously and often change his approach midstream. Hardly the same.

Corporate Doctors
Azhar Kazmi, Professor, Saudi Arabia, Member
That's why turnaround specialists are called 'corporate doctors' who help organisations regain their health. But just like in medical fraternity there could be some quacks too. So beware!

Turnaround Management (TM)
Jeswan SinghPS, Engineer, Malaysia, Member
TM encompasses a fundamental review of an organisation's strategic direction and often happens when the business is under major threat. TM often entails transformational change eg from one company to two or three in response to major market challenges.

A Difference from Surgery
Jagdish B Acharya, Consultant, India, Premium Member
Based on comments of Dr. Price, I correct myself. In surgery one often does not try untested methods because life of patient is at stake. However in Turnaround Management (TM) one has to quickly recognise that it is a TM situation, analyse what should be done fast, act, check, correct and so on. Quite often there may not be any previously well known and tested methods for the situation in this case.

Surgery, Hammer or U-Turn
Mary R Brooks
One of my business interests was in trouble last year and despite all the turnaround techniques that can be used and employed, sometimes it takes transformational changes (the hammer) or a U-turn to alter the course of the business. I used the hammer eventually and we are now "the phoenix rising from the ashes". The other turnaround stuff we used ended to be "bleeding edge" not "leading edge" in terms of time and money; sometimes brute force is the only way. Next time I will not hesitate! :)

No Holds Barred Action
Jeswan SinghPS, Engineer, Malaysia, Member
Congratulations Mary Brooks on your single minded focus to doing things differently. I am convinced that when things come to a head then it's got to be the showdown after the slowdown approach. Determined action to change the game plan and make things happen again are the only way out to produce results. Needless to say, the input by the leadership is most critical. Cheers

Mary R Brooks
Thanks Jeswan! Sometimes the single minded focus of a leader is seen as bullying, particularly in the UK. We are more and more over careful, trying not to upset anyone, trip over an employment law or alienate the business fraternity in the 21st century enlightened world. But I do firmly believe now after seeing the results of a drastic action, that strong leadership and decisive action wins the day. I am sure there are differing remedies for differing businesses too but doing things right, and doing the right things are imperative in an optimum time and part of moving forward, recovering from downturn.:)

Emergency Surgery
James Mchugh, United Kingdom, Member
In routine planned surgery - such as Hernia repair - the key to success lies in selecting the safest approach and being as thorough as possible to minimise risk. A key question is whether to risk surgery at all. There's always the possibility that it might go wrong. A good surgeon knows not just how to operate, but also when not to operate.
The other type of surgery is emergency surgery (eg when someone has been stabbed in the heart) when speed is of the essence. There is little time for pre-planning, and the surgeon must often change the plan in mid-operation depending on what they find. Although there are key principles to adhere to, no two emergency operations are ever the same, and there is consequently little in the textbooks to help decide what to do. Therefore solutions must be made up as you go along (and also of course there's no time to read up before operating). Success rates are lower in emergency surgery than in elective surgery.

Turnaround Management and Taking the Bulls by the Horn
Jeswan SinghPS, Engineer, Malaysia, Member
Mary Brooks - taking drastic action in certain work environments can be challenging and often disturbing as it may be viewed as contrary to local work norms. Usually a new dynamic team is given the challenge with their biggest hurdle being to keep the change pessimists at bay. The leader's message has to be cut and dry as todays challenge of management is not to just survive but thrive. I agree with Mohanned that the cultural setting must be embraced. In Indonesia work results are best achieved in a spirit of work and job enjoyment. Cheers

Surgery or Peeking Out of the Box?
Michael Cardy, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
Surgery implies the problem is within the organization, a specific area. While this often is the case, sometimes a better understanding of the issue at hand would bring about a better cure than simple amputation. In America I find SME's that mimic insanity as Einstein defines it: "doing the same thing time and time again expecting different results". Many of my clients fail to see the environment has changed and adjust accordingly (competitive threats, opportunities, failure to innovate). Surgery would kill them, seeing the organic-dynamic changes afoot outside their door can sometimes spare the amputation.

Amputation is Last Resort
James McHugh, United Kingdom, Member
Michael: amputation is always the last resort - and never used unless there is a cancer, or a limb which is irreparable and toxic and its retention would kill the whole person. Most surgery is about repairing problems, strengthening weak points or pulling structures together, rather than cutting away of body parts. As you say, removing an individual or part of an organisation is one approach, but it's often more appropriate to understand and fix a problem rather than sacrificing the whole limb which is never risk or cost-free.

Dilemma in Turnarounds
Azhar Kazmi, Professor, Saudi Arabia, Member
I feel that the basic dilemma in turnarounds must be the difficult choice between implementing a surgical or a humane turnaround. Both have plusses and minuses. The need for turnaround arises in a crisis situation and crises call for urgent action. The urgency sometimes may lead to hasty (not quick) actions resulting in further problems. On the other hand, pausing for considered action may result in better action but delayed.

TM-insider or Outsider as the Surgeon?
Sulleiman Adediran, Educational & Management Consultant, Nigeria, Member
We need the inside knowledge (organizational culture) for the outsider surgeon to succeed. Otherwise, some of the "whys?" may be difficult for the outside to provide a workable solution... My take is that the consultant must work closely with top management if Turnaround Management will be successful.

Speed and Grit are of Essence
R.S. MATHUR, Teacher, India, Member
Executing turnarounds cannot be without its share of pain, whatever may be the extent or depth of 'surgery' (as some of us might prefer to call). However, both speed and grit are of essence to get the 'patient' up and about. Sulemman, I'll go with your take on using the services of an consultant to carry out the surgery dispassionately.

To Do or not to Do
Azhar Kazmi, Professor, Saudi Arabia, Member
Well said, James McHugh: "a good surgeon knows not just how to operate, but also when not to operate". That statement captures the essence of the dilemma between a surgical or a humane turnaround that I referred to. The corollary to James' statement is: how does the surgeon know when to operate and when not to operate? I believe this comes from the reservoir of knowledge, years of experience, and - more importantly - internalising that experience. Also something nebulous that goes beyond mere knowing and experiencing: that leap of faith into the unknown, if one can call it, not having in the past anything similar to rely upon except one's intuition and confidence. That's the stuff leaders (not managers) are made of.

Communication and Mobilizing Pride
PRASAD SN, Professor, India, Member
I fully agree with the usage of words like 'surgical operation', 'hammering' etc. In addition, the actions have to be bold, audacious, sometimes unconventional till you realize the turnaround. While doing all this, timely, frequent communication both ways at all levels plays is important.. That is, even the last man has to feel that he is working for 'that objective' and feel proud of the organization. Eventually, it is that personal pride which drives each one to contribute to the turnaround.

Reach a Stage of Bleeding
Tshinyiwaho Phidane, Management Consultant, South Africa, Member
Turnaround Management is one of the most important interventions for organisations. The biggest challenge of this is the transfer of skills to internal stakeholders who have to reach a stage of bleeding. How do we ensure that as TM consultants, we ensure that the organisation employs an ongoing self assessment and acts decisively before external surgeons have to be called.

Study and Diagnose First
PROFESSOR JASWANT C GANDHI, Professor, India, Member
Let me share my experience as a consultant. Turning around business is like treating an organisation-person. Before we jump to surgery (to use metaphor), we need to study, diagnose and then treat the patient. In the process we put human beings involved, systems, procedures, core and peripheral organisational values, the cultural context of the board, etc. on the table and then we decide with the well chosen team the procedures, time frame and the cost for proceeding with the mission. So surgery is only one of the options to be deployed depending on the context. And this context is subject to change in every case.

Putting Both in and Outside Sources Together
Brunks Warwick. DBA, Strategy Consultant, Ireland, Member
With the evidence at hand, both surgeon and the patient need to agree for the treament to be successful, so, both in and outside source should be put into consideration for a successful out come of organisation success.

Various Roles in Turnaround
Jagdish B Acharya, Consultant, India, Premium Member
With so many contributions I am looking at analogies of roles people play in a turnaround:
1. The patient - company that is in need of improvement and is suffering.
2. The patient's guardian - the leader who is unable to guide it to recovery and needs the help of a specialist.
3. The generic doctor - the family doctor (internal leadership team) who has failed to make patient OK by normal treatments or standard medicines and feels a surgeon is needed.
4. The surgeon - could be internal or external (mostly external) consultant who has to study the patient, his reports. He talks to the regeric (regular, normal) doctor, takes concurrence of the guardian for the treatment line and decides to operate or not and how. His experience and knowledge of similar cases help all in deciding the course and achieving a turnaround.

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