x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Tommy Weir: improve execution, and avoid your own

The new boss shouldn't simply dump all the own ways and start with a clean sheer. Rather it is a case of gradual integration.

Tommy Weir

It seems there is an unwritten rule that says when a new leader joins a company, department or team, they are to try and change everything. Or at the very least new leaders feel they must try to implement all of their ideas as quickly as possible. Nothing that was before should stay as it was, almost implying that everything before had to be wrong.

It was explained to me this way: “Our new boss came in with his own bag of balls [ideas]. Instantly he threw all of these balls up into the air and expected us to deliver on all of his new ideas. The problem is that we already had balls up in the air. So either we had to let those smash on the floor or become juggling experts. Now we are trying to do just too much. Maybe our new boss should have focused on delivering what was started before his arrival before adding so many new ideas.”

Wow. When I heard this, it became really clear that this new boss perceived himself as the legendary “white knight” coming to save the company. And this assumption probably came with merit. Imagine what was communicated to him while being interviewed: “We need you to bring your expertise to either ‘fix whatever is wrong’ or ‘help us get to the next level’.”

Either way, it anchors in the new leader’s mind the need to bring his proverbial bag of balls and toss these ideas up into the air for the team to juggle.

Listening to this story made me wonder: “Since most all new bosses want to deliver stellar results and feel the pressure to do so quickly, what should a new leader do when arriving on the job?”

You have 100 days to make an impact and chart the path for future success, so you definitely need to move swiftly. The question is what do you do during those 100 days. As we highlighted earlier, calling a team meeting on day one and charting a whole new direction, thus throwing new balls up in the air, is not the right approach to take.

It is definitely worth listening to your new team, understanding what their existing plan is and what they are doing to accomplish it. When you throw new balls in the air, you are assuming the plan is flawed. Perhaps the existing plan is sound, but it is new, therefore it is too early in the implementation cycle to be considered flawed. By listening, you will uncover this.

The most common scenario is that the plan is sound but the execution is flawed. If so, it is better to uncover this and focus on improving execution rather than bringing in a new bag of balls, a new plan. Common sense holds that even if you change the plan, execution would remain a concern, as it was the core of the problem.

When execution is the issue start with identifying inconsistencies between the existing plan (strategy) and results. A relevant tool to use is “execution mapping”, which is keen to value stream mapping, where you create a picture of how execution flows from plan to implementation.

This is a very quick and simple process to use. With your team all together, start by mapping the existing process you use to execute. Once you have mapped out your current reality, then assess it to see how each stage is working. While doing this focus on what could be better and/or faster.

Only when you have determined that the problem is not with the existing plan or the execution should you introduce a new plan, toss new balls in the air. When you do this, be sure to get the existing balls out of the air so the team can focus only on what is important.

Too often, new leaders are just too eager and unintentionally create a disruption. Remember your role is to provide accountability for delivery, not just to introduce new ideas because you are the proverbial “white knight” come to save the day.

Tommy Weir is a leadership advisor, author of 10 Tips for Leading in the Middle East and other leadership writings and the founder of the Emerging Markets Leadership Center