The 4 P’s of Tackling the Transition: How to Ramp Up Quickly in Your New Role

A work table with a phone, a calculator, a news paper and other business items displayedI recently took on a new role in a new business. I knew a handful of my new colleagues through my involvement in Emerson's Women in STEM group, but otherwise I stepped into an entirely new world. A world where I had little familiarity with the organization or how to get things done.  For me, gaining a deeper level of understanding in my early days was and continues to be important. I know that doing so can help make a deeper impact on the team and gain stronger footing in the organization.

My approach to getting settled was to organize my learning into a few key buckets: People, Product, Process and Politics

People: It’s important to quickly develop relationships with individuals you’ll be working with. You’ll want to understand nuances about people's jobs things that you won't find in their job description. 

  • Get to know direct reports, peers, customers and your boss by scheduling time to meet with them and learn their key areas of responsibility and how they interact with your role and the team.
  • Plan one-on-one discussions early into your new role. Take advantage of being new to ask 'dumb questions’. Sometimes even a seemingly silly question can spark new thoughts and ideas for you and the person you’re meeting.
  • Learn about people’s interests outside of work so you can develop a personal relationship on top of a professional one.

Knowing “your people,” can create deeper connections, help you build a more cohesive team and can greatly facilitate collaboration down the road. Here is a great article if you’re coming into a managerial position: New Manager Ice Breakers: 6 Awesome Ways to Connect with New Employees.

Product: The depth of product knowledge you'll need will vary depending on your role and business function but regardless of position, you should have a basic working knowledge of your business' products, services and/or solutions.  

  • Create a list of Subject Matter Experts (also referred to as SMEs) in your organization. These are people who you can trust to give you accurate information, whether it’s a concept, idea or business tool. When you’re new to a business, it’s also helpful to find SMEs who can break information down into laywoman’s terms.
  • Take learning into your own hands. Don’t discount Google searches to give you initial background on your business’ offering and how it stacks up to the competition. Also ask for past presentations or reports that may fill in your knowledge gaps.
  • Look into available product training made for for sales or technical experts. Most jobs won’t require this depth of technical knowledge but auditing sections of these trainings or taking an abbreviated version can provide helpful background.

Regardless of your role, consider what aspects of the product you need to understand to be most effective, then go find the right people and ask your questions. Understanding your organization’s products, services and solutions will help you contribute to business discussions and will you ability to 'speaking the language' will help you build credibility. 

Process: In some jobs and organizations, processes are clearly outlined. In others, you’ll need to do more wayfaring to figure out standard procedures.  

  • Find out early what processes you are responsible for leading. These include meetings you'll manage, committees you'll run, or reports you’ll deliver.
  • If you can find processes that exist or don't have an owner, you may have struck gold! A process that needs to be created can be a great opportunity to establish credibility in your role and potentially grow your skill set and overall contributions as well.

Upon receiving the offer for this position, I pulled out my copy of The First 90 Days to begin reflecting on this change which provided a great framework for getting over the process learning curve.

Politics: Politics isn't a dirty word! In fact, I could call this section "cultural norms" but it doesn't start with a P. Learning business politics goes hand in hand with learning about people and processes. 

  • When you meet with individuals during your initial one-on-ones, ask questions that help you learn about individuals' motivations and hot buttons. This can help you develop a network of individuals with similar goals and help you identify which individuals or established work processes could potentially hamper you in your role.
  • Learn who makes decisions about different aspects of the business. How far up the chain of command will you need approval for a decision in your role?  This could critically impact your success and your ability to get things done.

When you have fresh eyes, you have a unique ability to see opportunities that exist within an organization. I recommend documenting your early insights. These little nuggets of information could turn into bigger ideas down the road. As you grow in your career, there is less of a roadmap for how to do a job and sometimes you may even lack direction on what needs to be done. There are always opportunities within a job description where the author as left room for interpretation. Success will come to those who view areas that aren't black and white as opportunities to identify improvements, enhancements, or even grow the business.

Have you recently started a new role? Share how you overcame some of your challenges or provide the tips you employed to ramp up on information by replying below.