Whole lot of history

There is a way the conversation often goes when you are new to a role. And a way it can go

How it often goes

“Why don’t we do my brilliant idea. I’m the breath of fresh air new boss?”

“Tried it, didn’t work”

How it can go

“I was looking through some of your old proposals on the shared drive and this one really stood out. I imagine we tried it at the time, but I was wondering if you fancied another attempt getting it off the ground? It might just have been the wrong timing”

“Ok, that sounds great. You are very wonderful”

I may be slightly overselling the second scenario, but I wanted to explore the concept of shared folders and organisational history. When you start in a new role I suggest that instead of just thinking about what changes you want to make you should spend some serious time looking back.

Here are some ways you can do it – at least one is likely to be possible in your next role

  • Talk to people about their career history and experience working there
  • Google the organisation to see what was written about it and what it published/put into the world
  • Poke about in shared folders looking at old comms ans proposals. I bet you find at least one old PowerPoint deck explaining the things that you think need doing
  • Ask people what they think are the important changes or historical decisions that you should be aware of
  • Just ask people ‘Have we already got something similar in a musty desk drawer?’ at the start of any project
  • Read the annual reports and look at changes in emphasis and stats over time

Shared folders. Virtual and mental.

You should never be beholden to organisational history, it should not be a constraint. It is, however, the rich backdrop against which you will operate and a source of learning that can provide a context that, once understood, can help you move forward more effectively.

I spent my weekend reading about the reports my organisation published half a decade ago. About CEO pay disputes (kudos to Donald Clark for his always challenging work). About commitments we made to people a decade ago. It was an education.

And I go into today better armed because of yesterday.

One thought on “Whole lot of history

  1. I can give you two examples. In 1999 I was working on a recruitment section of a magazine and I wrote a document about the potential of online for recruitment and how it was the future. I was told that was never going to work for their business model. If somebody looked back at that in the 2000s they would realise it was perhaps a little too soon.

    Saying that I was the new manager on another product trying to sell Christmas stock in October and was in fact too late. Indeed if I checked all The old records I could’ve saved myself the embarrassment.

    Like

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