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How do you set direction?

Assuming you are appointed as a new manager today, where do you start? How do you set direction?

Some simple tips that will be useful to you are:

1. Understand your organization’s vision, mission, goals and key priorities.

Rather than just reading them and thinking that you understand everything, have a conversation with your direct manager about them. Understand your direct manager’s perspectives. Ask questions. Probe on specifics that you are not clear of.

2. Understand how your unit/department contributes to the success of your organization.

So, what would be your contribution? Is it product excellence? Is it customer satisfaction? Is it new customers acquisition? Is it new product sales to the existing installed base? Is it excellent teamwork? Is it high staff morale? Is it excellent partnership with your business partners? Or is it a combination of a few things?

And for each, how much do you need to do? What kind of results are you looking at?

3. Take stock of where you stand currently and compare against your requirements to achieve results.

For you to get the planned result, what type of capabilities do you need? How much resources – in terms of money, man and material? Identify them clearly.

And evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses. Be honest. Can your current capabilities deliver the results that you need? What type of development strategy that you need to consider? How much resources would that involve? How would you justify the investment?

4. Formulate a draft “Statement of Direction” for your unit/department.

Based on your findings and assessment, formulate a draft of  ”Statement of Direction” for your unit/ department.  Your “Statement of Direction” should comprise the following:

4.1 Introduction

4.2 Overall Organizational Objectives

4.3 Your Unit/Department Goals and How It Would Contribute to the Organizational Success

4.4 Capabilities Requirements

4.5 Specific Requests from Management

5. Discuss your draft “Statement of Direction” with your Direct Manager.

Walk through the details of your “Statement of Direction” with your Direct Manager. Seek his/her feedback. Capture his/her feedback to be incorporated in your  “Statement of Direction”.

6. Update your “Statement of Direction” and share it with your team members.

Update your Direct Manager’s feedback into your “Statement of Direction”. Then, present it to your team members. Ask for their feedback/perspectives. Let them participate in the overall formulation of this. You have to win their mindshare. They need to have a reasonable degree of input on something that they would be accounted to.

7. Finalize your “Statement of Direction”.

Capture your team’s feedback. Update it into your “Statement of Direction”.

8. Communicate your “Statement of Direction”.

Communicate and socialize your direction to your team members. Answer questions clearly. Address concerns and resistances.

9. Adopt an open door policy to address issues and concerns on a continuous basis.

Make yourself available at all times. Give easy access.  Let your team members feel that you have their interests at heart.


A question for you:

What’s your personal experience in setting direction and how did you start?