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Risks of Poorly Planned Executive Transitions

By Carol Piras, Managing Partner, The Piras Group

By Carol Piras, The Piras Group

When we try to circumvent the baby steps, we get ourselves into trouble.

Goldfish jumping from one bowl to another.

The IED and Alexcel 2011 study "Executive Transitions" on executive transitions and the ramp time to get to full productivity is telling. Sure, we wish we didn’t have to go through the learning curve and we’d like a mind-meld in 48 hours, but there is really no way around it.  A leader’s got to do what s/he needs to do in order to be fully effective and productive.  That takes a little time and a little patience.

The IED and Alexcel report contains data from over 150 participants across 18 industries and 22 countries. Among the key findings:

  • Ramp up time for new external hires is most commonly between 6-9 months, according to 36% of respondents; 30% of respondents report it takes over 9 months.
  • Ramp up time for those executives making internal transfers within the same organization was expectedly less, but not by a huge margin. The most commonly cited period was between 3 - 6 months, according to 41% of respondents; 34% said it takes longer than 6 months.
  • 30% of executives who join an organization as an external hire fail to meet expectations in the first two years. 27% of new executives are actually gone from the organization within two years.
  • 23% of executives who make internal transfers fail to meet expectations in the first two years.
  • The techniques deemed as most effective to support transitions are often not the ones most frequently utilized by organizations.

What is the key to a successful company transition?

With a new organization, leaders need to work through a process of self and organizational discovery and assimilation.  This requires a desire to learn and with patience through the process.  Sometimes it makes sense to “go slow to go fast”.  This may mean resisting the desire to make immediate marks or wins, organizational changes, hiring and firing or changing course direction without learning about what you inherited and where your challenges may lie.  Going “slow” doesn’t mean lollygagging—what it means is to learn first, digest information, learn the company, learn about your team and expectations, before you launch into changes.

Too often, we find that clients underestimate the time and attention required to effectively support and assimilate a leader into the new organization.  Done carefully, through a process of discovery, coaching, training, and sustained learning, an executive can work quickly to reach maximum effects.

The Piras Group specializes in executive coaching and has processes and tools to help a leader accelerate their deployment into a new role.


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