M.I.N.M: New Manager Assimilation
Who: Bill Hunt, program manager, organization and staffing, GE Power Systems
Players: A newly appointed manager, his or her direct reports, and a facilitator.
Frequency: Soon after a new manager starts.
Purpose: "To reduce the time it takes a manager to develop a working relationship with his or her team."
Why I Never Miss It: "It jump-starts a very candid dialogue."
It's no secret that general electric has one of the deepest pools of managerial talent around. That has as much to do with how quickly the $90 billion company develops people as with how well it trains them, says Bill Hunt, a senior human resources executive at GE Power Systems, a $7.5 billion business based in Schenectady, New York. Hunt helps lead a pivotal part of that process. Practiced in GE divisions around the world, "new manager assimilation" compresses months of getting-to-know-you into a few highly charged hours. "It's the best way to iron out rumors, to confront the issues that arise with a new manager, and to create a climate of openness," says Hunt, who facilitates the emotionally intense session four or five times a year.
Accelerated relationship-building. "It's a super-intensive getting-to-know-you meeting that reduces by three to six months the time it normally takes to build an effective team."
Radical honesty. "In a kind of brainstorming session, team members raise candid observations and questions about the manager. Nothing is off limits."
"Lots and lots of flip charts, tape, magic markers - and a strong wrist."
"First, without the manager present, I meet with team members to help them generate questions: What do we know about the new manager? The answer can be anything from 'She relies on email' to 'He seems to change his mind a lot.' What are some things that we'd like to know? People might ask, 'What pushes your hot buttons?' or 'Are you a Republican?' This stage can generate as many as 100 questions.
"I meet quickly with the manager to review the issues raised. Then he or she does an off-the-cuff monologue in front of the team. It's remarkable how much is handled on the spot: Managers often cover 98 out of 100 items. Sometimes they really bare their souls. The meeting becomes a great bonding experience."
A version of this article appeared in the October 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.