I am a new Department Head/Manager … now what?

Throughout my experience I came across many people who have joined a new company as a Department Head or who have been recently promoted to a Manager position and in most cases they do not know what to do or where to start from.

My objective in this article is to provide a simple guideline that shall assist new Department Heads/Managers in effectively planning for their new challenge.

It is also very common during job interviews for a Manager-level position to be asked a question such as (If you are hired in this position, what would you do in the first 3 months?). This article shall be very beneficial in preparing you to answer such a common question.

There are 4 key steps that should be taken by the Department Head/Manager during the first period in his new Management position as I will explain next. These steps should actually be done on an annual basis during the annual planning exercise. The below diagram represents the 4 key steps in the process (Align, Assess, Prioritize, and Prepare). Below is a detailed description of each of these steps:

02 Annual Planning Process

  • Align: the objective of this step is basically to align the objectives of your department with those of the company’s and accordingly develop a suitable strategy to achieve these objectives. You can read the following article for more details on how to effectively accomplish this step (How to transform your department to a Strategic Partner?). the below diagram simply explains what we are trying to accomplish here.Picture1
  • Assess: the objective of this step is that you become familiar with your department by assessing the strengths and gaps in its current state. Think of it as the SWOT analysis of the department. In order for you to be able to develop suitable objectives for your department (future state) as mentioned in the previous step you need to understand the current state first. Once you do so, the strategy that will be developed in the previous step will have the objective of transforming your department from its current state to the future state. The below diagram illustrates the key components of any department and which you should focus on during the assessment of your department. Each is explained below:

03 Department Assessment

    • Strategy: review and understand the current objectives and strategy for your department (if it exists) and assess its alignment to the company’s objectives and if they are being implemented effectively.
    • Structure: review the current organization structure of the department and assess its alignment to the department strategy and its operational effectiveness.
    • Process: review the maturity and gaps of current processes within the department.
    • Performance: review how the performance of the department is being measured and reported (if any).
    • People: meet with employees of your department to assess their competencies against the competencies required for their roles.
    • Technology: review the effectiveness of the current technologies, systems, and applications (if any) being used/utilized by your department to manage and support your department’s operations.
  • Prioritize: while you are conducting the previous steps, you need not to forget that your department already has some operational tasks and activities. You need to understand from your team members as well as from the management their current operational requirements from your department and their priority and you need to ensure to continuously monitor their progress and addressing any issues.
  • Prepare: the objective of this step is to restructure your department (if required) as necessary to be able to implement the strategy that you have developed in the first step. This may require changes in the organization structure, hiring/replacing employees, implementing new systems, etc.

As you may have concluded while going through the description of each of the steps above, these steps do not have to be executed in the order they are listed in. In fact, you will have to conduct many of them in parallel. Below is a sample action plan and estimated timeframes that summarizes this article. The timeframe for each action item shall vary depending on the size of your department and complexity of the current operations and processes.

01 Actionplan

On an annual basis, the company will define new objectives and strategy. Accordingly, you need to re-conduct these steps to ensure your department is aligned with the new direction of the company.

I wish all the success to every new Department Head/Manager in his new role and hope that his article will be a suitable guideline during your new challenge.

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