You need to determine what to learn and in what order or you’ll be quickly overrun with information.  You need a systematic approach.

What do you need to learn cannot be accomplished via adhoc meetings.  You will be dragged into enough meetings as that’s the nature of business.

But is that the best approach to on-board yourself?  Finding time to learn in a new job is difficult.  From day one you are motivated to start contributing 100%.  You can expect people will be pressuring you for your time and others will be assessing your authority.  Be conscious of what and who you say “no” to.

High-level On-boarding Plan

  1. Get yourself known, connect, and start building your credibility
  2. Assess your business situation and strategize accordingly (STARS blog)
  3. Determine what to learn when (this blog)
  4. Establish conditions for success (this blog)
  5. Land early wins
  6. Assess the company’s alignment with its strategy
  7. Assess your team and plan any changes to it
  8. Find and build supporters
  9. Find the balance between learning and doing
  10. Recognize that everyone associated with your job is also now in transition, not just you

Failing at anyone of these items may result in you failing overall.

Where to Start

Learn the following of the organization and learn fast. Your tenue may depend on it

  • Culture
  • Politics
  • Lines of communication
  • Systems and processes
  • Products and/or Services
  • Markets
  • Uniqueness or differentiator of product(s) and/or services
  • Your new staff (if applicable)
  • Peers
  • Management

Tip: Learning in a Start-up or Turnaround situation is fundamentally technical: products, markets, projects, technologies and strategies.  In Realignment or Sustaining Success situations, immerse yourself in to the organizational culture and politics.

Establish Conditions for Success

While you feel the obligation produce at 100% from day-one, avoid this instinctive act.  Doing so comes at the expense of being poorly prepared for the greater picture.  Even if you were brought in to turnaround a situation, where they want to introduce new ways of doing things, you still need to learn the culture and politics or people won’t accept the change you will propose.

From the company’s side, you may be expected to be past the tipping point very quickly, especially in a start-up or turnaround situation where the luxury of time is not on your or the company’s side.

Determine how much emphasis will you place on learning as opposed to doing.

Determine what can you do to get early wins.

Create a learning plan.  Exceptionally few people do, to the determent of their overall on-boarding process. A learning plan doesn’t mean heads-down learning for 12 months.  It may mean concentrated learning for the first X weeks then spread out over a year.

Depending on your situation, determine what questions need asking to aid in building your systematic learning plan.  For example, “How did the company get to this point?”  By asking this basic question, you avoid the risk of undoing something a revered former manager put in place, is working well and represents a source of pride for the staff.


By taking the time to learn what you need to learn, you will be able to make better decisions earlier and reach the break-even point earlier.

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