3 Tactics for Creating a Successful Turnaround Through Positive Cultural Change

Not many companies have had as much tumult lately as Sprint, which, in February, took a $1.9-billion quarterly write-off because of the reduced value of its trade name. The company’s stock price is down by more than 50%, from a high of $9.74 in June, 2014 to $4.28 on February 26, 2015, but the sale price has somewhat stabilized over the last 30 days.

The highs and lows can be attributed to CEO Marcelo Claure, who, in little more than a half-year at the helm of the third largest U.S. wireless carrier, has gone a long way toward transforming the culture of the money-losing enterprise.

““It’s often said that the people are the greatest asset of a company,” he wrote in an internal memo. “I disagree. The right people are the most important asset.”

Claure brought some ideas on cultural change with him when he came to Sprint last year from Brightstar, a wireless-phone distributor that he started in 1997 when he was just 27 years old, and grew it into a $10.5-billion business by 2013.

Here are 3 ways that Claure has been shaking things up for the better at Sprint. Whether your business is struggling or leading the way, these ideas are good practice for all.

1. Dealing frankly with the headcount issue. While not the most popular strategy, one of the first things Claure did was strip down human capital. In November, the company announced 2,000 layoffs. Cuts were made at the top of the company as well as among the rank-and-file to communicate candidly the notion that there was no favoritism.

“It’s often said that the people are the greatest asset of a company,” he wrote in an internal memo. “I disagree. The right people are the most important asset, not just people, and we have to be very disciplined in pursuit of always having the right team.”

2. Forcing executives to get out on the front lines. Claure prodded his upper-level executives to get out and understand the customer and the needs of the employees. He sent them to Sprint stores to gain sales experience and to listen in on customer-service calls to get better ideas of what really irks Sprint subscribers and what, if anything, Sprint was doing well.

“This should improve insights on how we manage our business, and I’m confident that we’re building a culture to be successful in a turnaround,” he said at the time.

3. Urging employees to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. He encouraged all employees to think more outside the box and move more quickly to institute good innovations.

“We’re changing the employee culture through more open and transparent communication, inclusive decision-making and injecting a more entrepreneurial spirit that encourages people to innovate more and execute faster,” he said. “We’re seeing a renewed sense of energy to our employee base, particularly our frontline employees who see firsthand our turnaround and momentum.”

Whether such tactics be enough to help turn Sprint around remains to be seen, but there are good policies to follow so matter your industry or financial situation.


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