Where Business Is Won And Lost
By Steve McKee
Straightaways are easy.
It’s why they invented cruise control, after all. But “set it and forget it” is a sure way to end up in a heap. In business and in life.
But – like it or not – the road ahead is twisting and turning and whether you’re plotting the future of your products, your positioning, your profitability, or your people, there is always an element of uncertainty about which direction is best.
Wanting to know which road to take is something we deal with every day. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking a colleague the best route to a new restaurant or which conference room an upcoming meeting is in.
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At other times it’s as complicated as evaluating a new pricing strategy or designing a remote work policy. It may be wondering whether you should hire someone, fire someone, or change the direction of your company. It might be pondering staffing up or slimming down, investing in a new initiative or divesting an old one, or any of a thousand other decisions large and small that come our way in the course of our careers.
Turns are where business is won and lost, because turns are where change happens.
Turns represent moments of redirection. Of opportunity. Of transformation. Some turns we choose, and others are foisted upon us. The turns we make are affected not only by the turns of those around us, but by the turns of others around the world. Not to mention the turns of the world itself as it rotates on its axis and orbits the sun. And there are as many ways to think about turns as there are types of them: past and present, helpful and unhelpful, inadvertent and intentional. Turns can be viewed through a microscope or a telescope and reveal different lessons.
Since nothing can move in a single direction forever, turns, by nature, are about limits. But they’re also about overcoming limits. Finding new roads. Setting new courses. In every human turn there is decision and there is destiny. The more we learn about turns, the more we learn about ourselves, and vice versa.
Steve McKee’s book, Turns: Where Business Is Won or Lost (March 28, 2023) began as a deeper dive into corporate turnarounds. For most of Steve’s career, he has helped struggling and stalled businesses (including his own) to find the right road and get on it. As he studied the concept of turns, he became more and more convinced that they could teach us all great lessons about business and life.
The philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” You’ve probably never considered, for example, how your corporate culture has been shaped by something as distant as the Protestant Reformation. Or how your employee relations have been affected by the Civil War and its aftermath. Or how the economic context in which all our companies operate is result of a series of interrelated turns across the globe over the past thousand years. We are all subject to the bias of the present, as if the way things are today are the way things have always been. Not so, and the turns of the past have much to teach us.
This is not a paint-by-numbers business book. It doesn’t presume that history began yesterday, that the past is past, or that the answers are easy. By taking a deep dive into turns in arenas as diverse as science, history, religion, art, culture, politics, and sports, however, it will help readers connect the dots between yesterday and today, between the literal and the metaphorical, between those who’ve gone before us and those who will come after us, and, vitally, between the challenges your company is facing and the strategies to best address them. It won’t prescribe pat answers, but it will better equip us to work our way through our own moments of transition.