Plan to learn

So, what are the important questions? How will you find out the answers?

To get into a position of making good decisions quickly, you’ll need to have a plan for what to learn and how to go about it. The aim is to create a picture that approaches completeness on a number of dimensions before coming to any concrete conclusions.

Set out a check-list of information that you know you’ll need, and keep it as a living document on your computer to which you can add. Learning is iterative, and you will soon begin to add to your initial list. Set it out in three columns, so that you can add information on how and from whom you can get the information and tick off when you’ve received it.

Some pieces of information will be simple to obtain from existing written sources, or by meeting with individuals. Others may be bigger projects, often requiring some creativity on your part, such as group meetings and workshops, or original research.

Information you may need

Basic administrative and managerial information

  • Organisational charts for all relevant departments
  • Geographical layout of the organisation including the whereabouts of key departments
  • Contact list of key people to meet including email and land and mobile numbers
  • The organisational calendar with important annual dates or times of the year, eg budget submission, annual staff reviews, audit, financial year end
  • The key meetings that take place in the organisation, whether or not you are attending, as you are likely to have to contribute data or content for these.
  • Financial and other sign off procedures
  • Managerial processes and norms, such as time recording, one-to-ones, performance review and annual salary review procedures

Current commercial model of the organisation

  • How money comes in and goes out
  • Main product sets
  • Main customer groupings

History of the organisation

  • How the organisation got to this point
  • Key strategies
  • Key movers and shakers
  • Recent developments, plans and outcomes

Current performance of the organisation

  • Business performance against key targets
  • Notable market developments
  • Organisational strengths and weaknesses
  • Relative competitor positioning

Organisational strategy and plans

  • Main challenges facing the organisation
  • Current or recent plans and business cases
  • Development research
  • What the company is planning to spend on capital investment

Own department

  • Structure
  • Dependencies
  • Performance
  • A list of internal customers and what they need from you.
Strategic interdependencies

  • The chain of dependencies between departments for things like:
    • Information
    • Product or parts
    • Support

Political aspects

  • The strongest sponsors of change
  • People who are acting as barriers to change
  • People who are the go-to people to get things done
  • People who are the most powerful sponsors of change within the organisation

Opportunities to make a difference

  • Immediate priorities and potential urgent issues
  • Obvious market opportunities not maximised
  • Obvious costs to cut
  • Processes that are not adding value
  • Ways the organisational structure could be improved