The Fine Art of the Mega Turnaround: Getting It Done When The Cards Are Stacked Against You


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Organizations frequently launch great ideas with the anticipation of great success. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances often occur that keep the “big idea” from happening. Failure to effectively execute on a great plan puts the organization in a “world of hurt” that results in lost revenue, lost profits, and sometimes lost careers.

Executives and managers find themselves in the “underdog” position with the deck seemingly stacked against them and often feel there is no way out. This is when a mega- turnaround is needed.

Several years ago, I was a Regional Director of Operations for one of the nation’s largest technology enablers in the communications industry. One of the VP’s of the company to whom I reported had an operation in another state that was at great risk. The client was not happy with our results in that operation and we were on the verge of losing not only that contract but two others that were linked to it. My boss and I flew in to meet with the client and try to salvage the operation. After some reasonable “crow-eating” we were given a final chance to turn it around. On the way back to the hotel, my boss looked at me and said, “I’m making this your project. The reputation of the company and the livelihood of a lot of people is in your hands. I want you to fix it ‘the Rory way’ and get the results you get in your other operations. ” Needless to say, overwhelmed was an understatement.

As I lay in the hotel room staring at the ceiling, I wondered what the VP meant by “fix it the Rory way”. What is the “Rory way”? I pondered this for several hours and began looking back over my career, my college years, high school, and my childhood. The common thread that I found running through my life was that I had always been in the underdog position. The deck had always been stacked against me. Yet, somehow I had developed instincts and strategies that overcame the obstacles and propelled me to success. The fine art of the mega turnaround is what my boss had called “the Rory way” and my inability to recognize it was due to the fact that it had become so instinctive that I had never bothered to think about the strategies.

Within a very short time, my newly acquired team and I had performed a mega turnaround. The client was getting the desired results, my boss was happy, our employees kept their jobs, and in fact, everyone was making more money!

There are several strategies that anyone can utilize to execute a mega turnaround. One key strategy is the concept of simplicity. Everything in life is simple. “Wait a minute!” you may say. “How can something like nuclear physics, for example, be simple?” That is a fair question, let me add perspective. Everything in life is simple because even the most complex thing is formed of many simple things. By breaking down the complex into its simple components, one is able to better understand the complex. In order to understand nuclear physics one must understand algebra. In order to understand algebra one must understand arithmetic. Everything mathematical begins with basic arithmetic. The concept of everything being simple is the first step to creating a mega turnaround.

Another key strategy is to get back in the box. Thinking outside the box has its benefits, most certainly. However, many problems get overlooked by the “outside the box” thought process. The problems are still “in the box” and if you’re not careful, someone may come along and nail the lid on the box while you are on the outside! In my experience, the solution to the problem is, more often than not, still in the box.

While there are several other strategies, the ones mentioned here are the beginning strategies of accomplishing your mega turnaround!

Copyright 2005 Rory Elmore

Rory Elmore is an author, consultant, and speaker with over 25 years in the communications industry. Learn more about his strategies and sign up for the Mega Turnaround newsletter at


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