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Why you should engage an independent business strategy consultant in your first 100 days

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Your first 100 days in a CEO post are critical. The whole organisation is watching to see what you will do.

Will you make big changes? What style will you employ?

And you may have big ideas about both.

They're the reason you signed up for this gig. They may even be what you got you to the top of the pile of applicants in the first place.

But now that you've got your feet under the desk, it's turning out not to be as easy as you thought.

The organisation's problems seem a little more complex. The data you need is unavailable or not as clear as you'd hope it would be. Some members of your team don't seem as co-operative as you'd like.

You know you could sort it out. But you just don't have the time to get round to it all. Fires keep popping up and draining your attention: an unhappy customer, a problem in production, an underperforming staff member.

The high hopes you started the role with are starting to sink.

That's when you need help.

The challenge

Your challenge in the first 100 days is to:

1. Build strong relationships with your team

You represent change - you are a change. And that can be unsettling. The period of time leading to your arrival, and the reason a new CEO was required in the first place might also have been unsettling.

So it is important to invest time in building strong relationships of trust. And that requires listening and learning. Which brings us to:

2. Establish the specific facts on the ground

You have plenty of experience. You may even know the industry very well. But you probably don't know the specifics of this particular business.

You need to take time to understand the problems that the people who work there every day experience, as well as how outside stakeholders (customers, shareholders, distributors, suppliers, etc.) experience the organisation. You need to understand the history of why the organisation is the way it is. And you need to do so without appearing to cast blame. This requires talking to people and listening to what they say with patience and openness.

3. Come up with a diagnosis

Eventually, you will need to come up of the fence and give a view on what you believe the underlying challenges and opportunities facing the organisation are.

This may not be fundamentally different to what you thought when you started the process (although it probably won't be). But because you took the time to listen, people will feel more invested in your conclusions.

4. Introduce new ideas slowly and deliberately

You will almost certainly want to introduce new ideas. But do so slowly and deliberately. Give people time to digest the new ideas, to understand the benefits, and to consider the application of the ideas in their specific context.

Think of yourself like a teacher, revealing new concepts to their students incrementally, and allowing them time to explore and absorb them.

5. Propose a plan of action

The best plan of action is one that comes from your team. Your role is to coach, coax and challenge.

It's important to be realistic about the rate of change the organisation is able to sustain. It's unrealistic to expect an organisation to go from under-performance to high-performance overnight. So your plan may need to incorporate a sustained programme of improving the capacity for change itself.

The hardest parts of any plan are those that involve people. Perhaps a restructure is in order. Or perhaps you've concluded that some key members of your team are not right for their roles and require development, redeployment or even a managed exit. This is where the groundwork you've laid in previous steps will pay extra dividends.

6. Focus on the Why

We know that people respond better when they understand the Why of what is being asked of them. So it helps to distil your diagnosis and plan into a clear an compelling explanation why it matters.

This can take the form of a statement of purpose, a mission statement or a vision statement. It should tap into people's emotions as well as appeal to their logic.

7. Communicate

It will be hard to over-communicate during this period. Your new team are trying to learn how you operate, what they can expect from you, and what you expect from them.

And they will need constant reminders of your diagnosis, plan, and their role and contribution in establishing these.

All of this takes work, application and effort.

The solution (part of it)

And an independent business strategy consultant is just the right kind of person to give you the help you need.

They can provide:

1. Capacity and Experience

While you're fighting those fires and attending to the myriad other things that come with the role, a consultant can be digging into that data, conducting research, generating and evaluating options. And because they have plenty of experience of having done this before, they'll need limited guidance and can keep you appraised of only the most important and relevant conclusions, saving you time.

2. Objectivity

Your new team are still sussing you out and vying for position. Maybe they were even hoping for the top job themselves. Perhaps they'd sooner see you fail than change the status quo.

An independent consultant has no such vested interests. So they can give you an unbiased and objective assessment, as well as a fresh perspective on what's really happening.

This fresh perspective is particularly important if your existing team has been in the organisation for some time. They're as likely to be part of the problem you need to solve as they are to understand it or know how to solve it.

3. Ownership

With an independent consultant, you can agree the terms of the engagement up front.  These can include your strategic ambitions and concerns. The consultant is there to do the heavy lifting to confirm or disconfirm your hypotheses and to fill in the blanks.

They don't bring their own agenda. They don't bring the pre-packaged solutions that they just sold to your competitors. They don't overwhelm you with an army of junior consultants, muddying the water and burning your political capital with your new team.

And when they're done, they leave you, the owner of your strategy.

4. Cost effectiveness

A short, sharp engagement can be very cost-effective. You get all of the long-term benefits outlined above. But you only pay for the duration of the engagement.

Contact me, if you're looking for help in your first 100 days.

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