Lights, Camera, Action your Transition!

Action your learning plan

Learning starts before you begin with the new firm or in the new role.  Your personal meter should be running from the moment you learn you’ve got the job.

There a number of number of learning tools at your disposal to aid in ramping-up before you join:

  • Ask your new employer for any additional relevant documentation, for example: recent staff and/or client surveys or focus group results, meeting minutes, product focus groups, whitepapers, manuals.
  • Learn about the organization’s people, structure, performance (annual reports) and clients.
  • Google the firm, their products, their people, product reviews, etc.
  • Search product reviews, blogs, and relevant Twitter accounts (i.e. follow their people, clients, suppliers, if not already doing so).
  • Speak with suppliers and customers.  You may circle back to these same people later on in your learning plan.
  • Speak with former employees (ideally from within your network)
  • Speak with your predecessor or ex-staff if possible. Linkedin will find them.
  • Learn the company’s strategy.
  • Meetup with your new manager for a structured meeting.
  • Try the product if possible and applicable.

Use the above to being compiling your unique initial questions to start the journey once “on the inside”.  You can probably conjure up additional relevant learning tools (I would be interested in learning them and adding them to this blog).

A different set of learning tools become available once you’re officially on the inside, although, it will help you if you can obtain these prior to starting.

  1. Recent staff and/or client surveys or focus group results.
  2. Product focus groups and whitepapers.
  3. Key interfaces to the outside.  E.g. Sales, support and purchasing staff.  The objective is to determine how they view problems at the fringes of the organization.  Plan to engage them.
  4. Select an important process to examine departmental interactions and efficiency. Is the process documented?
  5. Select an important recent decision, then investigate how it was arrived at.

Getting in people’s faces

One first step once inside is to specifically speak with (question) people with critical knowledge as they should provide the best return on your most valuable asset, your time.  These people may also be outside of the company such as key clients, suppliers, distributors or ex-staff (as such, develop standard questions for external resources). You need to speak with people with different points of view, a representative slice of people, some leaders, some key hands-on staff.  Find the historian, someone who has a deep understanding of the relevant history of the company.

Where were you on the night of the 15th?

It’s important to play the same script, that is ask the same series of questions during each meeting.  This will give you varying views on a common set of conditions.  Grade 9 Science stuff.  It will also prevent any one interviewee from taking over the meeting with their agenda, or having your views shaped by the first or last few interviews.  This structure allows to you assess who is being forthright (or not) and/or how deep various players understanding of the business is.

Start by meeting 1:1 with your direct reports.  Again, ask the same questions.  Questions to your direct reports won’t obviously be the same questions you’ll ask (e.g.) a peer or supplier, but there will be overlap.  You’re a smart cookie so you’ll be able to come up with pertinent questions.  A few sample questions are:

  1. Who are the top 3 key customers, why?
  2. How did your predecessor handle decisions?
  3. How were goals set?
  4. What is the organization’s strategy?

Afterwards, have a group meeting with your direct reports to learn the dynamics of the group.

I hope I’ve given you enough to start to begin framing your unique learning plan. I’ve more to write.  Please stay tuned, do not adjust your blog channel.

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