In a recently conducted study, speaking to 14 new managers we received some amazing insights on the challenges, actions, learnings, and patterns for the success of a new business manager while taking charge. These business managers were in different organizational situations: including those driving turnarounds, experiencing significant challenges, and some in seemingly “Business as Usual” situations with risks lurking underneath. We reviewed how these business managers were “taking charge” in their initial days. What specifically were they doing in the 30, 60, and 90 days.
- Taking hold: 0-30 days
New Business Managers are grappling with the nature of the new situation, trying to understand the tasks and problems and assessing the organization and its requirements. As put by a new division president – “You’re on the edge of your seat all the time. At first, you are afraid to do anything for fear of upsetting the apple cart.The problem is that you have to keep the business running while you’re learning about it.” Hence the key learnings in this stage are evaluative.
Even for industry insiders, evaluation and orientation are key. In this stage, questioning previous perceptions and beliefs characterizes the successions of most insiders in this stage.
Actions in this stage can be conformant: trying to follow the norms eg continuing the connections and operating rhythms of the division. At the same time, managers are evaluating the effectiveness of these rhythms
- Immersion: 30-60 days
Immersion is a quiet yet significant activity. New business managers who spent this time acquired more knowledge and by the end of this stage, greatly revised their preconceptions.
Learnings tend to be more focused during this period if managers use the right probes and analytic mindset to see issues and recognize patterns.
In one case, for example, a new division manager in the very early days found that despite making changes, manufacturing cost problems persisted. He recognized that he needed to immerse himself more in the business before taking action and was able to see that many of these had their roots in the product’s design and ultimately, in how the division’s engineering group was structured. While this takes time, in most of the cases, it also resulted in a sharper plan of action for improving the situation further.
- Reshaping: 60-90 days
Business Managers felt a distinct stage when a significant activity burst started to happen. This occurred around the 60-day time period. During this stage, as they directed their attention towards reconfiguring a few or more aspects of the organizations. Learning continues but diminishes, and happens mostly in the form of feedback. Managers focus more on applying the concepts they developed in the previous stage.
Reshaping can include both altering processes, and altering structures. As one would imagine, the reshaping stage is very busy, especially if it involves major changes. For example, one manager had to hold two series of meetings, for over eight months to reconfigure the marketing and sales of the organization.
Reshaping ends when new managers have implemented as much of their concept as circumstances allow. In practice, several factors (the most common is the unavailability of people for top positions) often prevent them from completing the job.
- Consolidation: Around 90 days
At this stage, the new managers’ learnings and actions are more focused on consolidating all the changes and learnings they have implemented till now.
The key learnings are of two sets; the first is of identifying leftover follow-through implementation problems and their solution. The second set involves unanticipated problems due to changes made in the previous stages. Much of the consolidation period’s extraordinary activity involves diagnosing and studying these problems, then correcting them.
Finally, new managers also focus on the part of the concepts that they could not implement before. For eg., some managers had to wait to hire the right candidate for a key position to execute parts of their plan.
- Refinement: Post 90 days
A period of little changes, refinement is the last stage of the taking charge process. The managers have taken charge, and their learnings and actions focus on refining operations or exploring opportunities. Now they cannot be considered as “new”. Now learning will be more incremental and routine, and actions will be more confident and deliberate. For better or worse, the manager has taken charge.
Albeit obtained from a small sample, we found these patterns quite insightful. Hope you find them useful as well.
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