Course-Correction: Turning It Around When Times Get Tough

Change of Course

Every project, every department, every company will encounter some difficulties at some point along the way – and it’s our job to anticipate or at least manage them -- to the best of our abilities. That requires us all to be agile in course-correction, to be able to take that tough situation and turn it around. This ability to course-correct can make or break a project, a department, or even a company – and today, we are joined by someone who has quite literally written the book on how to turn things around! Lisa Gable is the CEO of FARE, a Founding Member of Chief, and she is the author of Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South. Here, she explains:

  • Common ways that things go wrong;
  • The critical importance of organizational agility;
  • Why success needs to be a collective effort; and
  • The Four-Step Turnaround Method!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


Inspiration Behind Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South

  • Through all of Ms. Gable’s experiences in politics and business, the COVID-19 Pandemic was truly the catalyst for the authoring of her book.
    • Initially, the book was going to be on leadership and character, but she switched gears to a “change of course” and turnaround theme.
  • The goal of the book is to provide some hope to people and businesses that may have had a grim outlook on the future throughout the pandemic by providing different change of course strategies to improve that outlook and find success. 
  • Purchase the book here.


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Why Do Things Go Wrong?

  • One of the main themes of the book is to find the underlying cause(s) of what is making things not work. 
  • A common issue occurs when organizations or organizational processes are built upon haphazardly designed processes and structures.
    • Occasionally, systems are built and put into place so quickly that the internal process that makes that system functional is not built up enough to support it.
  • CEOs and leadership can also be a root cause of issues because sometimes they believe that more money can solve everything.
    • Throwing more money at an issue can often expand and make the issue worse.
  • The economics of the business can also make the end goal impossible. 
    • This means that factors like supply chain issues and regulation can have a massive impact and a change of course may be needed to adjust the business economics and processes to adapt and remain successful as an organization. 
  • People can get stuck using cookie-cutter approaches.
    • Not every issue will fit into the same solution approach. 
  • Founders and founding principles may overstay their welcome. 
    • What was needed to start an organization is not necessarily what is needed to grow the organization. 

Organizational Agility

  • Flexibility is paramount when it comes to a change of course or turning around a bad situation.
    • A great representation of this flexibility and agility is a zig-zag.
      • Keeping an eye on the end goal is essential, but knowing when to pivot to a new strategy or idea while still heading in the direction of that end goal is vital.
  • Agility is a combination of a mindset and a learned skill.
  • Many people have a “black & white” mindset when it comes to problem solving, and in order for a change of course to occur, those people must be able to accept the situation as it is and learn to adapt to new solution methods.

The Turnaround Method

  • The turnaround method has been developed through Ms. Gable’s experiences in business, government, and philanthropy.
  • While each situation and change of course is different, there are principles you can apply and things that you can do in all situations.
  • There are 4 steps to this method:
    • Visualize the future
      • Don’t fix what’s there. Start from scratch.
      • Force yourself to think: “If I was starting this organization today, if I was starting this project today, What would I want it to look like? Where would I want to go?”
    • Break down the past
      • Ditch what isn’t working and keep what does.
      • In this step, what went wrong must be identified. 
        • This process could range from taking a look at the start of the organization to an audit of what is being done currently.
      • The auditing process allows for real analysis of root causes of issues and it avoids the “blame game” internally and externally.
      • If the audit is done in a continuous manner, a change of course or pivot becomes much easier for everyone involved.
    • Create a path from your present to your future
      • Map out your critical decisions and the actions you need to take.
      • This can take the form of a ranking and rating process. 
        • Understanding which processes are most and least beneficial to reaching the organization’s end goal will help to decide on what should stay and what should go when there is a change of course to get to that end goal. 
      • Decision trees are an extremely useful goal in this step to help the ranking and rating process.
      • There should not be too many people involved in plotting the path to the future.
    • Execute with confidence and diplomacy
      • Speed up partnering well with other people.
        • A great example of this is Pfizer, UPS, & CVS all partnering to make the COVID-19 Vaccine readily available to the public. 
      • This is the step in which all of the discussion and talking must stop, and things must be executed. 
      • By now the materials and strategic plan necessary to execute the plan should be in place.
      • Have the confidence that the process works and stop revisiting things.
      • Speed and efficiency is vital to this step, and that speed and efficiency will work to momentum and morale. 
  • This entire process is about making a change of course and turnaround for your organization.
  • Odds are high that at least one decision will make someone unhappy, but the impact on other people should outweigh the negative repercussions of the turnaround process. 
  • Think about how your message is delivered throughout the process - you never know who you might run into or work with again in the future. 

How To Make Success A Collective Accomplishment

  • Getting all parties involved on the same page is the key to achieving success as a group/organization. 
  • Once a decision is made, there should be no passive aggressiveness or disdain toward one another.
  • Celebration of success is also essential to ensuring everyone feels like they contributed to the success, even if they may have initially been opposed to the change of course that made it possible. 

Preventing The Need For A Turnaround

  • Simply put, the best way to avoid needing a change of course to find a way out of trouble, organizations should continuously practice the four steps to ensure that the organization is always on top of any budding issues.
  • Technology and innovation is evolving so rapidly today that it can be difficult to keep up, but if organizations are constantly auditing and analyzing potential issues, it will be much easier to stay up-to-date and on top of any issues.

Lisa Gable Background


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