Core Executive Transition Practices to Prioritize Strategic Goals for the Future.

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Stephanie Quarls
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Wowledge Expert Team
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This guide is part of a progression set comprised of Core, Advanced, and Emerging Executive Transition practices.

What it is

Over the past decade, much of the workforce has evolved into a more fluid, “gig-like” environment, taking advantage of internal and external opportunity marketplaces. The expectation that a worker grows up and stays with the same organization or business line has decreased substantially. This is even more true when discussing executive-level roles, where diverse backgrounds and a breadth of experiences are now key recruiting points. This shift creates a number of transitioning executives within organizations each year, many of whom are joining the organization for the first time. The onboarding process of getting a new executive “up to speed” can be intimidating, long, and sometimes disorganized, causing a lag in productivity and perhaps a longer time to value.

These practices focus on the foundational work and attention needed for an executive to start a new position successfully. One way to imagine it is the narrowest part of a funnel, considering only the most critical and urgent steps to gain quick momentum. At a minimum, a smooth executive transition should empower the person in role to quickly grasp the strategic needs and priorities required and determine a short- and long-term plan to succeed. This should be done through a series of interviews with peers, generating necessary historical context and information about the job, and conducting strategic planning on how to best prioritize individual and team time. 

Why use it

Most new executives are eager to jump right into the role and show immediate actions, therefore proving they were the right “fit” for the job. However, while the first few months in role tend to feel like a whirlwind, that’s when executives usually have the most flexibility and grace of time. Capitalizing on time up front to strategically plan and prioritize allows for a shorter time-to-value in role and may not present itself again once business activities are in full swing. 

Developing an understanding of the requirements and priorities for the job in a structured and disciplined manner enables greater success in the critical first several months on the job. It creates a sense of confidence in others that the new executive seeks to understand the culture, ways of conducting themselves, and building relationships before diving into generating results. It reduces the pressure for the newly installed leader to “have all the answers” and fit into the culture by buying time to learn and gain insights from more tenured, experienced peers and subordinates.  

Having a step-by-step guide from day one that yields an accelerated time to value and an actionable plan is crucial to starting a transitioning executive on the right foot. It’s critical that they undergo a strategic thought process and come away with a list of priorities, a stronger network of peers, and a 180-day plan to use as a guide and continue to evolve as time passes. It creates a well-considered plan of action that can help guide their time allocation and drive more efficient and effective application of work effort towards the highest priority activities. It clarifies the importance and urgency of different business needs and allows smart decision-making regarding their time and that of their subordinates.


Adopting these practices creates a well-considered roadmap for the early success of a transitioning leader, whether new to the organization or newly promoted from the ranks.  It establishes the leader as a thoughtful strategist and a collaborative executive.  It creates a clear plan of action that focuses on strategically critical activities that the leader drives versus being a reactive leader who is caught up in a fuller range of demands and requests based upon the priorities of others. These practices engage the leader in behaviors that smooth the transition into the team and gain a better understanding of the roles and priorities of their peers, enabling stronger bonds to be created. It clarifies how (and why) to prioritize their limited work time while focusing on the initiatives and areas most critical to early success. 

Practice guides at this level

Identifying critical needs and goals for the role to establish immediate priorities.

Reviewing available information and insights to gain an understanding of the immediate priorities and goals for the new position. 

Networking with internal clients and peers to develop a multi-perspective understanding of job requirements and priorities.

Identifying the key stakeholders and partners and developing a data and insight collection process that leads to an expanded and validated list of priorities.

Determining the most strategic allocation of time for an executive to clarify how to best target work efforts.

Understanding the key roles that the new executive will play and developing a time allocation framework to guide the proportion of time spent in each role. 

Defining the highest strategic Initiatives to prioritize areas of focus.

Reviewing the key priorities and assessing their relative importance and urgency in order to determine the timeframes for each to be addressed and completed.

Creating a 180-day plan with actions and milestones to target the highest-impact performance areas for a successful role start.

Developing an action plan for the first six months that will address each key priority and its associated actions and milestones. 

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