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New Manager Assimilation - New Manager Fast StartOn-boarding a new executive or manager poses specific organizational challenges. A particularly useful technique to help leaders settle into a new role is New Leader Assimilation, a program customized to your culture and organizational needs. Appropriate timing for this is normally 1-4 weeks after the manager has joined the organization.

The New Leader Assimilation process facilitates the rapid development of a working relationship between an executive and his/her direct reports. A relationship which can take up to 9 months to develop normally, can be achieved in about 9 hours. The effectiveness of this relationship will be based on the degree of shared understanding between the manager and the group, developed through solid communication.

This process is aimed at promoting immediate, open communication which is relevant to the manager/employee relationship, speeding up the ‘getting to know you’ process for both sides. New Leader Assimilation reduces the fears and anxieties produced by a new relationship and accelerates the development of mutual trust.

The New Leader Assimilation Program is a customized one-day program designed to provide a forum for a new manager and his/her team to develop an early understanding of their respective operating styles, communication patterns and business priorities so that they can quickly work together to effectively address critical business needs and issues.

The program can be used with equal effectiveness with internal managers taking over a new team or assignment, or with managers coming in from the outside. With external hires at a management level, the program should be one part of a larger, New Manager Assimilation process.

The program uses as its framework the work of John Gabarro, a professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at Harvard Business School. In his book, The Dynamics of Taking Charge, Gabarro reported five distinct phases of management integration into a new business. The first two phases, called Taking Hold and Immersion, are focused on orientation and learning and naturally take up to 18 months. The New Manager Assimilation Program is designed to shorten that time frame considerably to allow the new manager to arrive more quickly at Phase 3, Reshaping, in which he/she begins to implement his/her own business strategy.

First developed as a program by the U.S. Army, it has since been used in a wide range of multi-national corporations, including Citigroup, Exxon, Ford Motor Co., GE, J.P. Morgan Chase Morgan Stanley and Zurich Re.

The program can be conducted in many different formats. The most common is an agenda of 4 core facilitated segments totaling approximately 8 hours. It can be conducted all in one day or broken up over two days in various ways. The larger New Manager Assimilation program design includes a series of pre-programmed interviews with direct reports and/or additional staff. A Stakeholder Analysis segment can also be added to the beginning of the program. This segment is especially useful for a manager coming in from the outside as it provides him/her with the team’s view of the key internal and external stakeholders for the business and the business’s current effectiveness with each. While the one-day session includes team dynamics, communication styles and a discussion around current state, goals and impending future state, it has also been extremely useful for managers to follow the program with a day-long strategic planning session.

For all formats, it is essential that the facilitator speak with the new manager, the new manager’s manager, and the Senior Human Resources Officer in the business to get a preliminary picture of the business and to set expectations for the outcome.

An outside facilitator meets with the new manager’s direct reports and possibly key cross-functional stakeholders. The agenda for this meeting (which typically lasts 3 hours) is as follows:

  • The facilitator explains the purpose of the New Manager Assimilation process and how it works.
  • The facilitator then leads the group in developing responses to the following questions:
    • What do we know about (new manager)?
    • What don’t we know but would like to know about ........?
    • What are our concerns about ......... becoming our manager?
    • What do we want most from ........?
    • What does ........ need to know about us as a group?
    • What are the major issues ......... we will encounter in trying to achieve our objectives over the next 12 months?
    • What suggestions do we have for overcoming the points raised above?

After the team meeting, the facilitator consolidates the responses (usually recorded on flip charts) into a written document which is then reviewed with the new manager. This meeting usually takes 2-3 hours. A copy of the document can be sent to the direct reports once the manager has reviewed the groups responses.

Within a few days of receiving the responses, the new manager and facilitator meet with the direct reports. The agenda for this (3 hour) meeting is:

  • The new manager presents the data from the first meeting and seeks clarification of points.
  • The manager adds any information that helps to explain his/her style of managing
  • An open discussion is held between the manager and direct reports.
  • If appropriate some action planning is done around the points covered during the discussion.

The facilitator presents the results of a team talent assessment to the full team. The new manager is able to better understand the talent make-up of his/her team and the team learns more about the new managers behavioral style, motivation, and leadership qualities.

The team and new manager work collaboratively to articulate the team's current reality and goals and identify possibilities for achieving goals, affirm or change action plans, counter any identified barriers and commit to action.

The ‘questions and answers’ (or elements of these) can be used for general communications to a wider group. For example, these can be captured in a Q&A document and inserted into newsletters, staff emails etc. While the process is complete at this point, some organizations take it on another step.

The manager meets with the facilitator to review the session, clarify action items and commitments, and plan for the follow-up session in 6 months.

Three to six months after the first meeting, the facilitator again meets with the new manager’s direct reports. The purpose of this follow-up is to provide non-threatening, anonymous feedback to the new manager about his/her assimilation into the organization. It provides the new manager with feedback early enough in the assignment to allow appropriate adjustments in style. The agenda for
this meeting is usually:

  • Review responses to questions raised during the first meeting and discuss what actually happened since then.
  • Through group discussion, develop three lists of information about the new manager’s style of management.
    • What is the manager doing that we like and should continue or increase?
    • What is the manager doing that we dislike and would like to see discontinued or modified?
    • What is the manager not doing that we want him/her to start doing?

After the meeting, the facilitator summarizes the information and reviews this with the new manager. Within a few days, the new manager meets with the direct reports. The agenda for this follow-up meeting is:

  • The new manager seeks any needed information or clarification.
  • The new manager explains that actions will be taken as a result of the information provided.
  • The new manager presents his/her list of the things that direct reports can do more of, less of, or start doing to help the unit perform better. Obviously, items on these lists apply to the entire group (items relevant to specific people are discussed directly with the individuals concerned).
  • Follow-up actions and dates can be agreed to, as appropriate.

Several materials can be used in support of the program, either as pre-reading or takeaways. These include John J. Gabarro’s, The Dynamics of Taking Charge, published by Harvard Business School Press, Gabarro’s Harvard Business Review article which preceded the book entitled "When A New Manager Takes Charge," and an article from the Conference Board Magazine, Across The Board, entitled "Changing of the Guard.” These materials will give participants some background on the program and a greater understanding of its purposes and objectives.