Picking the right transition strategy.Harv Bus Rev. 2009 Jan; 87(1):46-53, 114.HB
Leaders in transition reflexively rely on the skills and strategies that worked for them in the past. That's a mistake, says Watkins, whose research shows that executives moving into new roles must gain a deep understanding of the situation at hand and adapt to it. To help them accurately assess their organizations and tailor their strategies and styles accordingly, he developed the STARS framework. "STARS" is an acronym for the five common situations leaders move into: start-up, turnaround, accelerated growth, realignment, and sustaining success. Thus, the model outlines the challenges of launching a venture or project; saving a business or initiative that's in serious trouble; dealing with rapid expansion; reenergizing a once-leading company that's now facing problems; and following in the footsteps of a highly regarded leader with a strong legacy of success. Executives can accelerate their immersion in new roles by following certain fundamental principles: Organize to learn about the business, establish A-item priorities, define strategic intent, quickly build the leadership team, secure early wins, and create supportive alliances across the company. But the way those principles should be applied depends very much on the business situation, which the STARS framework can help leaders analyze. Turnarounds and realignments present especially distinct leadership challenges that call for particular transition strategies. Regardless of the business situation, leaders must figure out which things need to happen--perhaps a jump in market share or an expansion into different markets--for their business to achieve its goals. And they must determine which leadership style best fits the new culture they're joining. Armed with such clarity, executives can design effective plans to manage their organizations and themselves.