Finding out about the business

Whenever I join a new business, I find that it’s a great idea to speak to as many people as possible about their views and understanding of the company. You’ll find that there is no one person who knows everything, but by speaking to lots of people, you can start to pull together a picture of what it’s really like and also identify where there is a lack of alignment – this always comes in useful later on!

It’s a very simple approach and can take anywhere between 15 minutes and a couple of hours – it all depends on how much time you have.

Ask the person to describe the business from their point of view

  • Process (describe the value chain from end to end)
  • Technology (what are the systems and data that support the process)
  • People (the organisation, activities and skills that people have)

Ask the person to describe the business from the point of view of the following roles:

  • A customer
  • A front line colleague
  • Back office colleague
  • The Executive/Senior Management
  • Shareholders

For each role, ask them about:

  • What does the organisation look and feel like?
  • What sort of organisation is it?
  • What are the key drivers? E.g. cost, value, customer, profit, sustainability

And that’s it. Keeping it simple and allowing the person to express their views from another role’s perspective will help them to open up about their thoughts and areas you can look into at a later date. Things that many people would normally be hesitant to do in initial meetings, speaking to new people.

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