There’s an interesting phenomena that happens with too many newly appointed managers-regardless their level of management, they immediately want to make their mark on the organization, they want to make changes, just to be making changes. I see this with many experienced managers moving into new management jobs, and virtually every first time manager.
Paraphrasing my friend Wally Bock, a manager’s job is not to make a mark on the organization or to change things just for the sake of change. The job of the manager is to produce results–through their people. This may not be as fun or as sexy, but that’s the job of the newly appointed manager. They need to be sure the organization is executing the strategy, achieving it’s goals as efficiently and effectively as possible. Depending on the situation the new manager steps into, few changes may be needed, in some, massive changes may be needed.
Too often there is a rush for doing something different, often without understanding what the real problems and issues are. Too often, newly appointed managers don’t leverage the experience of the people in the organization, making changes without their involvement, or bringing in their own team, throwing out everything else.
The new manager needs to quickly assess what’s going on. In the first 90 days, the new manager should minimize changes, but spend their time listening, wandering around, observing, getting as many ideas and views as possible. Travel with all your people, get to knwo them get them to know you. Get quality “windshield” time with them, understand what they do, why, how, what stands in their way, if anything. Talk to customers, get their views and opinions. Talk to other people in the company–if you manage a small sales team, talk to the marketing people they work with, customer service, order management, get their opinions. Ask people for their ideas–what should be changed and why, what shouldn’t be changed.
As you get ideas or consider changes, test them with your team. Talk to them about the ideas or changes. Get their views and opinions, engage them in the process. But don’t permit “we tried that before” serve as an excuse for throwing out an idea. Develop your initial ideas for what, if anything, needs to change. As you start deciding the next steps (toward the last half of your first 90 days), viciously prioritize the changes you and your team have agreed upon. Too many new managers, making the right changes, fail because they try to change too many things at the same time. Few people or organizations have the ability to do more than 2-3 major new initiatives at a time. Focus on your first 2 changes, make sure you have buy-in, make sure everyone understands why, what it means to each of them and have internalized it, then change. As those get executed, choose the next 2, keep going until you have completed the changes. Making no more than 2-3 major changes at a time, but cycling through them rapidly is going to be more successful than trying to change everything at once.
This formula works every time! Even in the most dire turnaround situations, seasoned new leaders take time, engage their people, prioritize the changes, rapidly implement. In reality, most new managers (particularly first time managers) aren’t stepping into a dire situation. They may in fact be stepping into an organization that performs well, and the key job is to continue that great performance.