Strategies and implementation tactics are too often built on a single person’s skill set instead of built on a plan that takes advantage of his or her skills and experiences. While some might call such differentiation “semantics,” it is an important principle that when violated can slow down growth and even derail an organization.
Unfortunately I have seen this happen time and time again in business, not-for-profits as well as academia. The bright new head of “blank” (fill in a key position: IT, marketing, sales, development) comes in and wants to put his or her mark on your organization, and so, too often, all current plans, ideas and systems are replaced by the new hire with his “better” ones. While I understand the need to allow your new hire freedom to do his job in a way he can succeed, I also find the wisdom in protecting the organization from serious missteps and, perhaps, total dependency on a single individual. Before setting your new hire free to change the status quo, consider the following:
Audit current systems, personnel and strategies before replacing them. There is a big difference in making changes because things are not working well, and making changes because your new hire wants to put his mark on your organization. I can think of a leader going along with dismantling a marketing campaign that was extremely successful because the new head of marketing decided that he wanted to take the organization in a “different” way. Different is not necessarily good and if things are working, then work the plan deeper instead of changing it altogether.
Protect the organization from the single-point-of-failure syndrome. In smaller organizations that’s often a problem. A key position holds the entire team hostage on his or her knowledge alone. Your new “web guy” is often that person. In all my years of consulting work, I have yet to encounter any single web professional who’s an expert on all things internet. It just doesn’t happen. In my company I have to hire experts in the areas of design, security, infrastructure, and mobile app development in order to be able to serve our clients well. If you have one person in charge of your entire digital strategy, what would happen to your organization if he were to walk out today? We deal with such chaos often when that happens and clients ask us to bail them out.
The team is more important than any one of its members. Remember that while you want to give your dynamic new hire the tools and latitude to succeed, you need the entire team to win, not just the new person. Replacing systems, partnerships, software so you can show your support for the new person is often a price too high to pay. Just because something worked well in their last employment, doesn’t mean it will work well for you. Think of the team first, before you allow major shifts. Take calculated risks. Ask yourself: if this new change is a flop, what is the risk to the entire organization.
For me the bottom line is your new key position should have a clear, well-defined plan that’s derived from the organization’s overall strategy and is not just a win for his position or department. If there are changes to current systems, personnel, and partnership, they need to be quantified by an audit and carefully implemented. There’s some truth in the old saying, “the evil you know is better than the evil you do not.”
Where have you seen the new hire syndrome play out before?