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Submitted by O.H. on


BLUF: What if the Boss expects me to implement significant changes the day I start?

Hi all,

I will be starting a new position in August. I am really looking forward to it. It seems this is the job I have been looking for.
I was delighted to listen to the cast which said not to make any drastic changes right away. It makes a great deal of sense to get to know the company, people, culture and work attitude first and draw up a thorough analysis first before stepping in.
However, my new boss seems to think that I will be able to "straighten the bunch out" quite quickly and that I should go in there and teach them what they really should be doing.
I may be wrong, but that is what I read between the lines after several meetings with him, recently.
Sure, I can go in there like a bulldozer and have everything done my (or his) way, but I would rather build a foundation of trust first, with both the boss and my directs.
How can I best strike the balance and keep both sides happy?
I am thinking of meeting with the boss, the week before I start, explain what my plan is and why I would like to do it that way. I would like to suggest that I will provide an analysis of the situation after 2-3 months, including an action plan. I am not sure if he will go for it. He strikes me to be a guy that is always in the passing lane and wants things to happen over night. (He is a great guy otherwise).
Any thoughts or suggestions on this?

Kind regards form Europe.

fchalif's picture
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Hi Dyonisos,

When you meet with your new boss the week before you start, indicate to him\her that you wish to use many of the elements of the first 90 day cast.
Listen for his\her response to that. Instead of providing an assessment after 2-3 months, ask for a weekly meeting where you can brief on the observations you are making. 15 minutes is all you need.

This will allow you to develop a relationship with your new directs and your new boss fairly quickly in that 90 days.

mdave's picture

Hi --

Your boss may have some goals or targets tied to your new division that are at risk of not being met (which may explain why he is seeking some immediate change). Asking about his goals may help you frame your strategy such that there may be some options to both execute your approach and meet his immediate needs (if there are some). Just a thought. Best wishes. :)

jhack's picture

Focus on outcomes, not process.

Find out what results the boss is looking for, by when. If the talk turns to process (the "how"), that's when you indicate that you need to understand team member strengths and weaknesses, what is and is not working in the current processes, etc.

Work with him on your plan, show that you're going to get the results.


AManagerTool's picture

BLUF: The 90 day thing is a GUIDELINE not a RULE. It's [u]best[/u] not to act on things for 90 days. That said, if action is required, ACT!

I think that the "straighten the bunch out" stuff may be a bit rhetorical in nature. I would ask for clairification. If your boss tells you, "I need you to fix A, B and C as soon as possible." You might want to fix A, B and C before that 90 day period is up. If it's pure rhetoric, then stick with the 90 day plan and keep him informed about what you are observing and marking for change.

O.H.'s picture
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Some very good replies.... thanks everyone.

I do appreciate it.

Sorry it took a while for me to get back with a reply.

I actually had the opportunity to spent some time with my new company.

This job is a new manager's dream or nightmare, depending on you personality and way of looking at things.

I will be joining a company in the medical devices area, that has been very successful in the few years that it has been on the market.

During this week, I learned that due to the young age of the company, there is no real structure in place, nor is there a proper plan for the next 6 month or the year 2009 or the years thereafter.

Sales are behind plan and at at the current run rate we will not meet our target for 2008.

I am tasked meet the 2008 goals (at least 80% of it and we are currently 50% behind plan) and to hire new staff members to complete the team as quickly as possible.

Employee development is supported but not really planned. The team complaints about "lack of structure, goals and orientation."

The business idea of the company is great. They have really identified a gap in the particular market, which has been instrumental for their success.

In a way I am REALLY looking forward to the challenge and at the same time I am totally terrified at the amount of basic structure work obviously required.

How can I sit back and not do anything for 90 days, but there is immediate intervention required to meet the 2008 target...

Again... any feedback greatly appreciated.

Regards form Europe... where problems are the same :-)

BTW: Germany is playing against Spain in the European Soccer finals... if you happen to be in Germany or Spain on Sunday... prepare for a MAJOR party or a BIG drama... :D

jhack's picture

In a crisis, the rules change. The danger is shooting before you've taken proper aim.

They want goals and structure...engage them! Get their ideas on what's working well, and what isn't. What OUTCOMES are not good? Why are sales below target (are you losing deals, or not getting in them?, etc). What's working and should be kept? What about the organization is bad, and what would they like to see? etc.

By engaging them, you are "fitting in" and not just dictating. They will own the ideas and the changes, and you will be a catalyst.

If the sense of crisis is shared, then the timeframe can be compressed. You still need to earn their trust, fit in, engage them, and act as a team.


AManagerTool's picture

I saw at least 3 BIG starting points in your description of what you have to do. Hiring is, as Mark describes, "The Most Important Function that a Manager is Responsible for Doing."

Start there....

Hire the best! That takes time. Everybody looks at hiring managers as heros if they do it right!

[quote]The team complaints about "lack of structure, goals and orientation." [/quote]

Listen to them. Get their ideas. Brainstorm with them. Plan with them. This is ACTION. At the 90 day mark, you have a plan to present, get approval for and then impliment. As John points out, the danger is the "shoot from the hip" mentality that new managers have. Again, this analysis is indeed action.

Let me say it again: The 90 day thing is a GUIDELINE not a RULE. It's best not to act on things for 90 days. That said, if action is required, ACT!

Your point about not meeting targets for this year should be similarly analyzed and planned out but you want to make some progress right away on that one. The VC's or whoever is funding this venture will be looking at these numbers HARD! They will want to see the numbers following the right trajectory. Many times, there are clauses in the funding contracts that have specific metrics obligations that have serious ramifications for the startup. Put a bandage on this problem fast!

See no handcuffs....just a stop sign.

HMac's picture

....and focus your initial efforts on building relationships. Because that's the foundation for the success of your next moves. So yeah: what Tool and jhack said. Because those behaviors are crucial to building the relationships.


cwatine's picture
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I am in line with all what I have read here. Specially about communication and behaviors.

And about goals and guidelines for the structure:

1) One good book can also be usefull to keep on the right path : have you read "Kiss theory goodbye" ? It is full of excellent and common sense advices.
MT review here :

2) Crisis can surely be the opportunity to input a sense of urgency in the structure, but you also need FOCUS (urgency without focus is inefficient).
What I have experimented with success was to have ONE SINGLE MAJOR GOAL FOR THE TEAM that will put priorities in all their actions. This GOAL has to start with a verb and be clear to everyone. It also has to be time-limited.
If it is possible, brainstorm with them to determine this MAJOR GOAL.
After this has been done and accepted, it is easier to give goals to each of your directs, which are linked to this MAJOR GOAL. And to put in place the right metrics to measure your progression. It also give a sens of accountability between the members of the team because they have individual goals that contribute to the MAJOR GOAL.

Good luck!