let's imagine that the head quarter of a quite big company (services) realized that one of its subsidiaries in a developing country is mismanaged.

The auditors sent showed that operations are not followed through well: invoices not sent, no control on money collection, budgeting not realistic, key figures not reliable, people managed by a "dictator" etc.

What should be the first steps of a newly appointed general manager sent from abroad to turn around the situation? How he can rely on the other exec. that are working there?
Should be the first step: fire all the former GM directs? Seems to me not the right one unless there is a temporary task force sent to provide assistance until the new managers are hired.
So what to do?

Your comments/ideas very appreciated.

Thank you

juliahhavener's picture
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Not sure it's necessary to fire the GM directs unless they're a primary part of the problem. I would start with the trinity - pass down the expectations through O3's, coaching, and feedback. I'm assuming that it is expected to make change happen, but not overnight (then yes, that taskforce would be necessary).

sholden's picture
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I just finished the "Google Story" book (by Vise/Malseed) and there was a section in the book about how the new CEO at was brought on board to save the site by leveraging Google's services and examples.

One of the things he did that struck me as intelligent was to not replace anyone at until he was capable of doing the job of the person he was replacing (senior mgmt positions) while he was searching for the perfect replacement.


thaGUma's picture

My tuppence. A subsiduary cannot turn itself around. If you sack top end you lose the head and may kill the patient. It will take some time to establish where the problem is - and whether it requires firing.

Tranfser someone senior (up and coming Exec) to capture the problem. Senior mangement can agree strategy and establish corrective actions.
Troubleshooter will implement.
Once implemented, troubleshooter leaves and regular reporting to confirm corrective actions are being maintained. Hopefully exceeded.

Do not anticipate any firing or demotions. It may be that there is simply misdirection going on. New direction and impetus may generate greater returns.


PattiBarcroft's picture


I highly recommend you get the book "The First 90 Days" by Michael Watkins.

I have added comments about it on the Favorite Books forum - here:

It will give you a plan on how to address the "turn-around" elements you are asking about.

Good Luck,

dimka's picture

I have this book it and never used very well. Probably I was not in the right level :lol:

I remember that somewhere in the forum Mark's opinion about the book was not so good.

I will read it again.
I am finding interesting Kotter "leading change" and L. Bolman " reframing Organizations".

Thank you.

Steve does that worked?

My idea is to set strict standard (you get what you measure) and then follow through with all the MT advices and reccomandations.


Mark's picture
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Is this a hypothetical? I generally don't respond to those. This isn't's about real problems.

Having been involved in many turnarounds, I can assure all that firing top people is always on the table and often used wisely. And, sometimes unwisely.

Hypothetical, or not?


asteriskrntt1's picture

Not that this has anything to do with the posting. It has to do with Mark's comment on not answering hypothetical questions.

I was in an interview a couple of weeks ago and the guy kept asking hypothetical questions (not behavioural but hypothetical). For example, he asked "Not that we have anyone here like this, but suppose you have a deliverable that requires work product from other people. 4 days before it is due, the other people have not delivered. You report to the pissiest manager known to man, again, not that we have anyone here like that. You go to your manager and tell him what is happening. He responds by telling you he could not care less, it is your problem. Go away and I don't want to see you without the deliverable." What do you do?

So I ask... this is hypothetical. How does one respond to a series of questions like this?


Mark's picture
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Okay, but this is an interview. I hope no one took my post as saying no hypotheticals ever. I don't particularly care for them in interviews either, but this isn't a were actually asked this dumb question.

I'd say, "I'd go back to the folks who owe me whatever and talk to them about my need and risk and their need and risk, and depending upon their behavioral tendencies and styles of working with others, I would persuade them to help me meet my deadline."


dimka's picture


no this is not hypotetical, but this all I know about the position they are offering to me. There are 4 top people responding to the present GM that should be replaced by me. Do not know how are the relatioships there between them (loyalty etc).
The Head quarter (new CEO there as well) wants to refocus in that country and reshape the company there.
Problems are described in my first post: operation not well developed, commercial activity under the potential results etc.

I saw the Budget, but auditors sent there show that are not realistic.
Seems money was stolen too by the GM.

Shall I make more investigations before accepting definitely?
Thank you.


Mark's picture
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Yes, you should be asking a lot more.

What were the specific transgressions of the leaders?

What were the financials?

What targets were made, which were missed?

To whom will you report to, and what support has she given in the past?

What are the financials expected to be?

What are the backgrounds and involvement in the problems of the 4 directs you will get?

Who will be your financial person and how involved was he?

How long will you have?

What customers do they have and how has the mismanagement affected them?

Who maintained relationships with the customers?

I think it may be a great opportunity, but someone's not doing their job if they're not telling you all this. I would want to go there and interview everyone.

And, finally, the first rule of any new management job is FIT IN, FIT IN, FIT IN. You need to learn about these people before you decide whom to keep and whom to fire, and what processes to change.

FIT IN. Then change.


dimka's picture

thank you for your advices.

I have part of these info but the main lacking is about the people, they were hired by the present GM that was keeping all the matter under his shadow, so even the central office have difficulties to judge the people attitude there. In the past years the corporate structure allowed that every subsidiary act as separate kingdoms...It is crazy I know but this is.
Now a global restructuring is going on.

To meet and iterview the people in the country (Russia) where I should move before being hired I think it will be difficult, but I will try.

I will report to the newly appointed CEO in the headquarter that wants to clean the situation,

They showed me the financials and the potentials are good, but the infrastucture is weak and they do not trust the GM and do not want to take more commitments (commercially speaking) before cleaning up the organization.

If we will come to an agreement I'll FIT IN.