Potential sources and information-gathering strategies

Your boss shares responsibility for making sure you become productive quickly, and he or she should be able to provide a substantial steer on where key information can be obtained, and enable you to get access to anything that might need permission before it is released.

Be prepared to prompt and make suggestions to help the discussion along. Your boss may also be the best person to point out gaps to you – blind spots he or she was not aware you had may become evident as you discuss through or provide diagrammatically what you have already found out:

Potential sources: People

  • Your boss
  • Your team
  • Key contacts list (eg managers of other departments)
  • Human Resources
  • Boss’s or own secretarial support
  • Finance
  • Admin
  • Switchboard or front office

Potential sources: Documents

  • Your own job description, objectives and contract of employment
  • Published organisation charts
  • Annual report and other published sources
  • Last three months’ financial, operations and marketing reporting (you may want to extend this to a year if a lot is happening)
  • Forecasts and projections
  • Consultants’ reports
  • Exception reports (faults and failures)
  • External or internal market analyses and commentary, including competitor analysis
  • Company intranet
  • Marketing analyses including SWOT and PEST analyses, Ansoff and Boston matrices
  • Marketing strategies and plans
  • Market research reports
  • Sales strategies and
  • Key customer plans and relationship strategies
  • SLAs and performance statistics
  • Customer satisfaction reports
  • Recent development plans and business cases
  • Staff survey results

More advanced information gathering methods

Especially as the more straightforward elements of your data search come in, questions will begin to arise in your mind about why things are as they are, and what might be going on behind the data. You will naturally begin to formulate a new question list and some hypotheses to test. Much of the information you are now looking for is qualitative – it can’t be found from spreadsheets and models alone. Here are some ways of gathering this kind of information:

  • One to one meetings
  • Group or team meetings (yours and your boss’s)
  • Structured and unstructured discussions
  • Sitting in on other functions’ team meetings
  • Mind mapping and diagramming
  • Work-shopping – for understanding, diagnosis or problem solving
  • Walking the shop floor
  • Listening to people at the coal-face in each function, rather than just their managers
  • Setting test tasks and assignments
  • Team building activities
  • Following processes through end-to-end to understand how they work
  • Carrying out formal or informal surveys
  • Offering the opportunity to contribute ideas and comments anonymously
  • Offering the opportunity for second-line one-to-ones
  • Analysing information from a range of points of view, eg internal and external customer, finance, salesperson, key deliverer.

Once you have built your list of required information, and potential ways of getting hold of it, test it with a few people – your boss, managers you will most closely work with, and any mentor you have been assigned. Take any steers you can get on how to prioritise your list (high, medium and low priority is all you need).