You must be New! 5 Things You Should Never Do Coming into an Organization

It is very difficult to come into an organization as a new middle manager – or any level for that matter – but, I have found it most difficult when you’re a layer or two below the top of the organization.

Off the bat…you have no history, no relationships and no credibility. You’re not one of the gang; you don’t know the secret knock. You don’t even have the reputation of being an outside consultant – a hired gun parachuted in to fix something and then you’re out.

You live in the middle gray area of not being on the team but hired to build or fix something from within. This can be a lonely place at first. As such, there are 5 things you should never do on your way in that might inhibit your chances to make friends and gain entry to the club.

Never…

  1. Eat your lunch at your desk. Lunch is the perfect opportunity to get to know people outside of the workplace on a personal level but also in a safe environment so people can be candid with you. Lunch is a very disarming situation and, best of all, it is outside of a boring beige conference room!
  2. Pine for your past. People don’t really want to hear about your past lives. They may want to get to know you a little bit but don’t belabor what you have achieved in the past. People don’t want to hear: “Well, at my last company…” too many times. It is a turn-off. Instead focus on what you think is possible and what excites you about this opportunity.
  3. Ignore their past. Don’t brush over what has been tried before at the present company. Oftentimes, what has been done could have been quite good; there may not have been enough buy-in or focus on change management. Be sure to pay homage to the past. Recognize it, take what’s good and keep it (and communicate that broadly); reinvent, carefully, what does not work.
  4. Build your plan right away. Even if you know what needs to be changed and how to do it within 30 days, resist the urge. Give it 90-100 days. Grab your pipe and magnifying glass and go to work Sherlock Holmes style. Discover what your stakeholders need and really give good thought on how to get it done. This shows you can listen.
  5. Do nothing for 6 months. Don’t act too quickly but there is a sweet spot between giving enough time to build credibility through listening and doing something to prove your value. So, be sure to not only have your plan ready in 90-100 days but achieve a “plus one”– one tangible, achievable outcome along with the plan within that timeframe.

7 Questions for Minimum Governance

Implementing a new process or system without governance can lead to chaos. We all know this. But, do too many rules get in the way of adoption?

The answer? Yes, BUT.

Yes. Too many rules can turn people away. Too restrictive of a request or change process can kill any good feelings of a new system. BUT, zero governance can lead to messy system implementations or uneven process adoption, which usually does not meet the business objectives of the new initiative.

So, as in life, work, love and health, BALANCE must be the end goal.

How do you have just enough governance to save people from themselves but not turn them away at the front door of change?

To start a new process or system implementation, we should adopt Minimum Governance so the price of entry isn’t too high and we can show value out of the gates. This is not to say governance can’t be expanded, reduced or altered along the way – it should be. Minimum Governance should answer the following 7 questions:

1. What is the purpose and intended result of this process/system?
2. What human resources will manage and support this effort?
3. What are people supposed to do, specifically, and when?
4. How do people engage in the new process/system?
5. What are the baselines expectations of people (is there a policy to correlate)?
6. How are we going to hold people accountable for meeting expectations?
7. How/From whom do people get training and help?

There are other questions we can answer and should, especially for systems, like design, hierarchy and other tool, data and content standards. However, I caution to keep the standards “light” to start until you get buy-in. Then, people will more likely follow you toward more standardization down the road.

Are “Quick Wins” a Myth?

My whole career I have focused on trying to meet businesses’ needs in many, speedy flavors: quick ramp-ups, 90-day agendas, low-hanging fruit, fast starts, and, of course, quick wins.

The intent of quick wins are to prove that you are credible + trustworthy, you can make stuff happen, you can cut through red tape, you can prove your value, you can execute!

But, in dealing with true cultural change, is there such a thing? I struggle with this concept often because there may be no true quick wins when trying to steer a culture a certain and very different direction from its present state.

In times where execution seems to be difficult and “quick” execution almost impossible, I think the value should be placed more on a tangible action plan where there is an end goal defined and progress can be made and measured along the way to reach that end goal rather than ensuring something…anything gets done or rolled out in a short timeframe.

Inherent in the phrase, we are putting more emphasis on “Quick” than we are “Win” because sometimes (even I will caveat with a “sometimes”) “Quick” can be the enemy of a true “Win”…especially in a long-lasting, integrated into workflow, sticky kind of a way.

I think leaders value progress whether quick or slow. When too much conversation, too many opinions being solicited, too many reviews, too much socializing of concepts and approaches stifle action, that is when the “quick win” card gets played.

Focusing on progress can quench the thirst for results. So, let’s start planning and progressing with those quarterly milestones and start making a difference!