Chapter 1. Changing "Us and Them" to "We"

For Corey Whitaker, June 13 was the best of times and the worst of times. The week before, he'd been promoted to the CEO position of Owatt Hospitality Services, a Fortune 500 hotel and restaurant enterprise, following an agonizing search process during which he never knew whether he'd be elevated or escorted to the elevator. Yesterday morning, the company's stock price had tanked following an analyst's report that productivity and service-quality problems threatened the very viability of the enterprise. Whitaker had himself only recently become aware of the magnitude of these challenges, since the previous CEO hoarded information like an old pit bull guarding his bone. As executive vice president for marketing, Whitaker was kept out of the loop when it came to operating issues. He smiled and shook his head. The fact that he was out of the loop was undoubtedly why the board had turned the mess over to him.

Whitaker was at the airport, waiting for the sunrise flight from Baltimore to LaGuardia. Later that morning, he had a meeting with the company's bankers, who wanted to know what he was going to do to protect their money. He tried to concentrate on the spreadsheets that just the day before had been loaded onto his laptop but was distracted by the familiar voice of Jack Stallings, business correspondent for CNN, projecting from the television suspended from the ceiling several rows down: "As if the poor economy wasn't already clobbering business ...

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