Engage in a systematic learning process before and after your transition


  1. Define your learning agenda before you join the organization
    Generate a set of questions to help you better understand the past, present, and future of the organization. For example: How has this organization performed in the past? If performance has been poor/good, why has that been the case? Who has been instrumental in shaping this organization? Is the organization pursuing its stated vision? What are the key processes? What are the most promising unexploited opportunities? Which elements of culture should be preserved or changed? Such questions can you understand the organization’s political, technical, and cultural domains.
  2. Identify the best sources of insight
    To make effective decisions, study the hard data about the organization such as operating reports, strategic plans, employee surveys, financial accounts, etc.  You can also acquire soft data by talking to key people inside and outside the organization. These include top management, frontline employees, customers, distributors, suppliers, and analysts. If possible, reach out to former employees.
  3. Adopt structured learning methods
    Engage in structured one-on-one meetings with subordinates and ask everyone the same questions to identify divergent and popular opinions. After that, have a group discussion to share ideas based on the answers they previously gave. You can also include other learning tools such as SWOT analysis, employee surveys, focus groups, plant and market tours, and pilot projects.
  4. Create a learning plan to clarify how you’ll learn about the organization
    This involves collecting information, analyzing it, and testing hypotheses. Your plan can include talking to your new boss, studying the organization’s structure, looking for external assessments, meeting with subordinates, and continually updating your hypotheses and findings. 
  5. Get help when you need it
    Many other players can support your learning process and make it less painful. Enlist the help of bosses, peers, and even subordinates to accelerate your learning. Be willing to ask and be clear on how they can help.


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