Home > Building Profitable Business Orgs., Business Turnarounds, Employees, Solving Difficult Business Problems > Rudi Giuliani tells us the first steps in designing a successful turnaround program.

Rudi Giuliani tells us the first steps in designing a successful turnaround program.

I recently read Rudy Giuliani’s book, “Leadership” and he has reminded me of an important strategic principle that he successfully utilized and is worth passing on, as I believe it is a wonderful lesson for small business owners to consider and do.

When Rudy first took over his job as mayor of New York City, the city was in shambles.  Everything bad was getting increasingly worse and very little was working well.  There were huge issues and low morale.  Nobody believed the situation could be changed.

Rudy of course wanted to attack the big issues and organize major changes.  One of the first issues he focused on was the huge and growing violent crime crime rate, New York City being a leader in homicides with over 2000 in the year before he took office as mayor.

People were afraid to walk the streets for fear of being involved on a major violent crime.

After evaluating the situation he made a series of immediate decisions, with his strategy being as follows:

1. Identify a few actions that were small but quickly achievable, and very visible.

2. Accomplish the goal quickly and visibly.

3, Repeat this a few times and many good things occur.

The people witnessed success, action, progress.  People began to believe that the city’s leadership was committed to change and more importantly was succeeding in making changes, successfully.

4. Small steps lead to larger ones, little successes lead to larger successes.

5. Morale improved dramatically and everyone got on board buying into a new way, a new path, success and accomplishment.  They accepted his leadership and followed his way.  Now real progress could be made as everyone was willing to work with his agenda and believed in his success, he became a leader that everyone wanted to follow.

In short, by identifying and accomplishing a few small easily accomplished quick victories, he set the stage for enormous cooperation and turnaround effort, and he gained the necessary support from his huge employee base -without which he could accomplish very little.

He created believers and supporters.

He became a leader with a vision, one who can do and does do, and everyone wanted to be part of his turnaround programs…and thus it happened, gathering and creating its own momentum.

So you truly understand his approach, I will identify his successes.

His goal was to reduce major violent crimes, a huge and difficult turnaround effort that everyone said could not be done.

He started out by ridding the city of the squeegee men, those panhandlers who would wash your car window when you stopped and expect a payoff, or would kick your car or spit on you or your window.

As with all changes, there was some resistance as they may not have been breaking the law so the Police Commissioner objected.  Rudy thought, and surmised they were at the very least j-walking and could be busted for that, and then checked out for additional warrants and processed if appropriate.  It worked like a charm and he was correct.  Many had warrants, citations, etc and they were apprehended, processed and removed from society,  if appropriate.  Others, feeling the pressure, left the streets. The squeegee men disappeared overnight.

It was a huge visible and immediate victory and removed hundreds of bad guys from the streets.

Rudi then went after the thugs that jumped over the turn-styles in the rapid transit system, again easy pickings, very visible and easy to stop as well as successfully clearing many more thugs off the streets.  Hmmm getting better.

Knowing many of his cops lived on Staten Island, Rudi sought out a way to support them and asked the borough president what he could do, who informed him that a few years back the ferries stopped carrying cars for some obscure reason which inconvenienced many commuters including many cops.

Rudy immediately reversed this and the ferries began carrying over 1000 cars per day which was viewed as a huge benefit to those involved and especially the cops.  Success once again, small, visible and successfully implemented!

Then he removed graffiti from the city owned trucks closed up or had repaired broken windows in abandoned buildings; he drove out the hookers, pimps and beggars and soon Times Square became the safest cleanest place in the city.

Amazingly, major crimes plummeted along with these programs being successfully implemented.  By the end of his term major violent crimes dropped 75%!  Not all because of these small programs but the small programs set the wheels of progress in motion, signalled the turnaround and successfully enlisted everyone’s support.

Everything began to work better, people were inspired to do their job, everyone believed they could contribute to a better way of life and that Rudy would lead them there.  What a huge and successful  environment for change.

That was all it took to create believers and appropriate action and the rest was a whole lot easier.  It worked.

Why not apply these same principles to your own turnaround?  Begin by solving small identifiable problems, and build success as you plan the turnaround of the larger issues.  Get your people on board -believing and supporting your vision and efforts- by successfully identifying and changing small easily accomplished issues -issues that support and improve the quality of life for the people involved- do this and there isn’t anything you cannot accomplish thereafter  You’ll have captured and motivated the commitment of the most important people in your business, your employees.

If you start with the big issues first it will be a tough long hard road with huge risk and likely limited potential success, as you have not yet successfully enlisted the support of your employees.   

Create a new deal, a new age, a new program, new goals,  identify some attainable victories, achieve them quickly and distinctly, take credit for it, and bring your employees back into the fold, then begin aiming at the bigger problems with support and momentum carrying you to success.

Good advice Rudy, thanks, if it worked for New York City, it could work for you.  Call if you need help 413-549-2966.

  1. April 15, 2008 at 8:54 AM

    A very interesting article on how turnaround programmes can work.

    I agree that gaining early successes is so important and resolving the small identifiable problems is the place to start.

  1. March 21, 2008 at 2:35 PM

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