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Are you ready for a Challenge

You take on a new challenge, you get a new position. Is it in your own organization, will you continue to work with the same markets or technology? What complexity do you expect? In this introduction you will be presented with a series of questions and tools that can help you. Help you during your First 100 Days in your new challenge.

I challenge you to complete, correct and ask questions about the text. I have worked with the guideline of this book several times after new appointments. I like to share my own experience. Furthermore, please help me with your observations, you can help me and the following readers in this way.

Enjoy reading.

The Checklist of this chapter

  1. What do you need to get to a break-even point as quickly as possible in this new role?
  2. What are the pitfalls you may encounter in your new role and how do you avoid them?
  3. What can you do to create positive spirals and build momentum in your new role?
  4. What type of transitions do you experience in your new role? Which is the biggest challenge? Why?
  5. What are the core elements and milestones of your 90 day plan?

“Aligning an organization is like preparing for a long sailing trip. First, you need to be clear on whether your destination (the mission and goals)and your route (the strategy) are the right ones. Then you can figure out which boat you need (the structure), how to outfit it (the processes), and which mix of crew members is best (the skill bases). Throughout the journey, you keep an eye out for reefs that are not on the charts.” - Michael D. Watkins

Your transition

Transitions into new roles are the most challenging times in the professional life of leaders. Success or failure during these first few months is a strong predictor of overall success or failure in the job.

Transitions are also periods of acute vulnerability, because you lack established working relationships and a detailed understanding of your new role. You're managing under a microscope, subject to a high degree of scrutiny as people around you strive to figure out who you are and what you represent as a leader. Opinions of your effectiveness begin to form surprisingly quickly, and, once formed, they're very hard to change. If you're successful in building credibility and securing early wins, the momentum likely will propel you through the rest of your tenure. But if you dig yourself into a hole early on, you will face an uphill battle from that point forward.

Break-even point

The goal in every transition and working with this book, and me is to get as rapidly as possible to the break-even point. In the first months you cost money, only later, when you start making decisions you, hopefully, start making money for the company. The goal is to get to the break even point as quickly and effectively as possible.

Transition traps

  1. Sticking with what you know
    Embrace new competencies
  2. Falling prey to the “action imperative”.
    You try to o hard and too early to put your own stamp in the organization. Continue, as long as you can to Listen, Summarize, Question [George Begemann]
  3. Setting unrealistic expectations
    Negotiate your mandate and establish clear, achievable objectives.
  4. Attempting to do too much
    Collect issues, analysis, set priorities and target for a quick win [George Begemann]
  5. Coming in the “the” answer
    You go too fast. Continue to listen and involve people to come to an answer that is supported by all, it helps achieving successes.
  6. Engaging in the wrong type of learning
    Build the cultural insight, relationships, and information conduits you need if you're to understand what is really going on.
  7. Neglecting horizontal relationships
    Build horizontal relationships with peers and other stakeholders, to help you fully understand what it will take to succeed and build supportive alliances.
  8. Take time to check if you are apt to make these mistakes in the coming period of your own transition. Please note that I have written some of these problems down in the solution description. I hate reading about problems…

Creating momentum

Learn the right things in the right ways at the outset! Bad initial decisions can damage your credibility. Your overriding goal is getting up to speed and taking charge to generate momentum by creating virtuous cycles and avoid getting caught in vicious cycles. Mobilize the energy of many others in your organization.

Understanding the fundamental principles

Transition failures happen because new leaders either misunderstand the essential demands of the situation, or lack the skill and flexibility to adapt to them. The key is to match your strategy to the situation.

    Essential transition tasks:
  1. Prepare yourself
    Take a mental break. Prepare to take charge. Working extremely hard can lead to failing miserably.
  2. Get to know everyone
    Take at least a month to just walk around and meet people, understand what they do, their challenges. Just listen, take notes and register.
  3. Accelerate your learning
    Understand: markets, products, technologies, systems, structure, culture and politics. Be systematic and focused about what you need to learn.
  4. Match your strategy to the situation
    A clear diagnosis of the situation is an essential prerequisite for developing your action plan.
  5. Secure early wins
    Early wins build your credibility and create momentum. In the first few weeks you need to identify opportunities to build personal credibility.
  6. Negotiate success
    Build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage his / her expectations. Crucially it means developing and gaining consensus on your 90-day plan.
  7. Achieve alignment
    Play the role of organizational architect. Bring structure into alignment with strategy and develop the processes and skill bases necessary to realize your strategic intent.
  8. Build your team
    Evaluate, align and mobilize your team members. Restructure it to better meet the demands of the situation. Make tough early personnel calls and select the right people for the right positions. These are among the most important drivers of success during your transition and beyond. Be systematic and strategic.
  9. Create coalitions
    Your success depends on your ability to influence people outside your direct line of control. Start right away to identify those whose support is essential for your success.
  10. Keep your balance
    Maintain your equilibrium and preserve your ability to make good judgments. The right advice-and-counsel network is an indispensable resource. You do not want to lose perspective, become isolated or make bad calls.
  11. Accelerate everyone
    Help all in your organization accelerate their own transition (direct reports, bosses, and peers). They are also in transition. The quicker you can get you new direct reports up to speed, the more you will help you own performance. The benefits of accelerating others is also fixed.

Assessing transition risk

In your transition, how many characteristics are changing? The more, the more challenging the transition. Check table I-1: Transition Risk Assessment. Identify what shifts you're experiencing and which is the most challenging.

Mapping out your first 90 days

People in the organization expect you to become effective and get some traction after some time. Working with the First 100 Day program sets the right expectations. If you can, try to get some pre-preparation time. Start planning what you hope to accomplish by specific milestones. What after day one, week 1, month 1, month 2 and after your 100 days. It will be sketchy at the beginning. Going the way, you will be able to make it more clear. You can tick of your completed elements from your to-do list.

Make dreams work.

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George Begemann

Executive Sparring Partner