Rewriting a Future That’s Already Written
In May 1997, Malcolm Burns, a wiry, intense but soft-spoken Australian, walked to the front of a room filled with a hundred executives, managers, and union leaders, and said something so loud and surprising that many wondered what had happened to the managing director of their company, BHP New Zealand Steel.
Most of the people in the room knew Burns only through his reputation. When he first arrived at the company, the local newspaper had tagged him “Slash and Burns” because of his reputation for cutting costs and workforce size. Many of the managers and employees had believed he would close the plant.
The plant had seemed preordained to fail, and closing it seemed to be the obvious thing to do. The ...

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