Michael Watkins Answers Your Questions
Earlier this month we told you we’d be interviewing Michael Watkins, author of Your Next Move. We invited you to submit questions to Watkins, an expert in leadership transitions. Here, as promised, are his responses.
Let’s start with a turnaround question. The first things a new leader at a company with a turnaround challenge has to do is assess the external and internal environments. What happens if the two aren’t aligned? For instance, what if the external market for your products is good but your products are doing poorly?
It’s a bad news, good news situation. The bad news is that your products are not presently meeting customer needs. The good news is that your industry is healthy, even in your business is not. This obviously is much better than being in a dying industry where you would be forced to radically shift the focus of the business.
The challenge (and the opportunity) here is eliminate the external-internal misalignment by rapidly bringing more attractive products or services to market. It’s here that you need to focus and get some early wins. Are there some modest adjustments you can make quickly to buy you some time? Are there products already in the pipeline on which you can place bets and organize to accelerate? Are there opportunities to license or acquire products to help fill the gap?
The fact that you are in a turnaround situation also is quite helpful. It means there already is a sense of urgency that you can use to create momentum. People are unlikely to be in denial about the need to take action and that will help you to drive things forward.
How can an employee transition from a small company (<100 employees) to a large one? (submitted by “jijesh”)
This is a tough transition. The bad news is that most small-to-large company transitions mean you have to accept positions with narrower scope, as well as adjust to more convoluted processes, e.g. for approvals, and increased organizational politics. This can be a very hard adjustment for someone who has thrived in the broader, more flexible environments that characterize most successful small businesses. The key is to be prepared to accept these shifts and not rail against them.