Harvard Business School Review

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Managers who take the helm of new businesses or large divisions must go through predictable stages before they’ve truly mastered the job.

When some managers take over a new job, they hit the ground running. They learn the ropes, get along with their bosses and subordinates, gain credibility, and ultimately master the situation. Others, however, don't do so well. What accounts for the difference? In this article, first published in 1985, Harvard Business School professor John J. Gabarro relates the findings of two sets of field studies he conducted, covering 14 management successions. The first set was a three-year study of four newly assigned division presidents; the second consisted of 10 historical case studies. The project comprised American and European organizations with sales varying from $1.2 million to $3 billion. It included turnarounds, normal situations, failures, and triumphs. According to the author, the taking-charge process follows five predictable stages: taking hold, immersion, reshaping, consolidation, and refinement. These phases are characterized by a series of alternating periods of intense learning (immersion and refinement) and action (taking hold, reshaping, and consolidation). The study's results put to rest the myth of the all-purpose general manager who can be dropped into any situation and emerge triumphant. Understanding a situation and effecting change do not occur overnight, says Gabarro, and human variables such as managerial styles and effective working relationships make a difference.

The New Manager Arrives
1. Taking hold.
2. Immersion.
3. Reshaping.
4. Consolidation.
5. Refinement.

What Makes a Difference?
Roots that endure.
Turning things around.
The new manager’s style.
Relationships with key people.
Conflicts in management style.
How stacked is the deck?

Managing the New Manager
When you are taking charge.
Succession planning and career development.

The...
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