When New Senior Executives Take Over
There are three basic questions that must be answered at the start of a new
management assignment: what do I want to achieve, what do I want to preserve,
and what do I want to avoid? Let the "achieve/preserve/avoid" mantra
put a framework around your actions for the next ninety days.
The answers to these questions are not intuitively obvious. And the answers
are likely to change as one moves up and down the chain of command. Be aware of
the dangers of relying too much on past experience in other organizations to
come up with solutions for problems in this new organization. Each organization
culture is different.
Getting a clear road map for these three questions is important, and is best
achieved by collaborative discussion. Having such a collaborative discussion
is not easy.
THE GOING IN MANDATE
Echoing a similar theme, Professor John Gabarro speaks about the importance
of a new manager clarifying what he calls the "going in mandate."
Gabarro is a Professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business and
author of The Dynamics of Taking Charge, (Boston:Harvard Business School Press,
" In general management successions, the going-in mandates were usually
not very specific about what actions to take. They focused on more general
parameters, such as competitive position, market share, growth, and contribution
Managers often find that, in practice, they have less authority than they
had been led to believe. The Achieve, Preserve, and Avoid framework can serve
as a useful way to organize that important mandate. The greater the clarity at
the front end of the assignment, the less the later confusion.
THE LONE RANGE
Gabarro stresses the importance of building subordinates into a cohesive
team. Failure to value a team approach to decision making led to a management
style characterized by Gabarro as the "Lone Ranger Syndrome." And the
Lone Ranger Syndrome was associated with turn-around failure:
"Compared to the successful managers, (Lone Rangers) involved others to
a much lesser degree in the work of assessing and diagnosing organization
problems. As a result, their diagnoses of situations tended to be much more
narrowly focused and incomplete. Finally, they made changes that were perceived
as inappropriate or ineffective, either because the changes were based on
partial or incorrect diagnoses of problems or because the changes were badly
implemented by a management group that did not support them."
CHANGE COMES IN THREES
Gabarro studied seventeen management successions over time. Regardless of
industry, size, or country, there was a tendency for management changes to come
in waves of three, with the second change being the most dramatic and the last
change being a refinement of the major changes that took place in the second
wave. Indeed, this three wave cycle took place even among managers in the study
who (at the time) believed that their first wave of action would take care of
most of the major changes.
Gabarro believes the three wave effect is a natural consequence of how new
managers learn as they try to master new situations.