When on-boarding a senior level player at the strategic level, it’s important to get them connected to the overall strategy as quickly as possible. They are being brought in to manage a key part of the business and drive results quickly. To accomplish this, they need to become strategically engaged and develop a strategic plan of action. The only problem is that they don’t really understand the company or the overall strategy well enough to independently drive key parts of it. No wonder nearly 50% of mid-career executive transitions don’t work out.
No matter how talented someone is, they typically need to build their own strategy within the context of the bigger picture. That’s why, when they first come onboard, the focus is to get them “up to speed” as quickly as possible. Corporate on-boarding programs are generally designed do that. But these programs almost always fall short of integrating the new executive strategically.
There is a natural rhythm that needs to be understood and managed in order for Strategic OnBoarding© to work effectively. We have identified four key phases that new strategic hires naturally transition through. A key point to remember here is that these phases will unfold in this order whether or not your company chooses to influence them. These natural four phases are:
1. Intelligence—gathering as much information as possible about their new company.
2. Insight—filtering the information to discern what’s relevant strategically and why.
3. Analysis—analyzing their own situation to decide what changes they need to make.
4. Synthesis—building their own strategy that is aligned with the overall strategic direction.
Unfortunately on-boarding executives are often left alone to navigate these phases, reflect on their new situation and synthesize their actions with the strategic direction of the company. Strategic information is not readily available or in a format where it’s easy to understand and connect to. Early experiences in the new position are not always highly structured and sometimes opportunistic. Companies rightly try to take advantage of events and situations that are available at the particular time that the individual is coming onboard. This can result in a more stochastic approach to strategic integration that is not structured and predictable. Strategic OnBoarding helps newly hired executives critically think about their role in what the company is trying to do so that they can focus their individual contributions to that strategic effort.
No matter what the company wants to do, strategic integration has to happen for the executive on a personal level—they have to align themselves with the strategy, not the other way around. Our recommendation is to provide the on-boarding executive with a disciplined and structured process that teaches them how to successfully transition through the four natural phases.