Monday, July 15, 2013

The Honeymoon period

I met up with a CIO who had taken up a new assignment with a new company in a different sector from his previous industry; he had just completed a little over three months in the new role. The company was known to be a market leader in the industry with highly adaptable market driven IT systems. The company was growing quickly and it was also a known fact that their IT needed revival and renewal. My friend the CIO was excited about the opportunity despite butterflies in the stomach.

Three months had brought some success and quick wins; he had faced a few uphill tasks too where success eluded his team. We started chatting about his journey thus far, his joys, setbacks, challenges, plans, opportunities, cultural fit, politics, whatever; everyone was not aligned to the vision and agenda consistently though there were only a couple of detractors who believed that in the transformation the risk outweighed the benefits; change will be disruptive agreed everyone unanimously.

He described his journey with vigor and excitement in animated tones; initial days were great with all the CXOs helping him understand the business, the challenges and opportunities, the history and way forward. His team gave him a warm welcome and fervently looked up to him to provide the much needed leadership. Down the line as he traversed the organizations width and depth, he found that there was a strong culture and pride which kept people together. He was happy to join such a company.

Within a month he had enough data to form a sketch of the company landscape and a roadmap of the journey that would demonstrate the efficacy of his understanding of the enterprise. He ran it by his team and then selectively some of the CXOs; he incorporated the feedback into his finding and tuned the plan to what the organization could take in its stride without being overtly disruptive. He also received more than adequate time to detail the plan and its execution.

In the previous week to our meeting, he had received endorsement of his strategy and plan including the long-term funding. So the excitement was understandable and shared by his team; from being in the laggards’ quadrant of IT adoption, they were on the journey to the one marked followers and he hoped to get into the “early adopters” block within two years. He also had freedom to hire his team to execute the plan; he had started connecting to his contacts to explore. Sounds too good to be true ?

What I have described is what is normally referred to as the “Honeymoon period” in any new company and assignment. Generally the length of the term varies from 30 to 90 days in which the person has it easy while learning the ropes and boundaries. This is when the individual defines the flex s/he has to assert and where s/he has to back off. Learning about the culture, people, process and politics helps in creating relationships that aid or deter the journey. Questions are not frowned at as you are learning.

A shortened honeymoon based on understanding of the priorities and result oriented actions, able to capture the proverbial low hanging fruits, builds credibility and sets a strong foundation. My friend had more or less done that with his experience, rigor and quick understanding; he made the best of the time to create a foundation and set expectations with all stakeholders. While there were a few indifferent CXOs and some sections risk averse, his confidence withdrew the negativity and insecurity.

Honeymoons however do not last forever; they are usually to set expectations. They are getting shorter with engagements prior to joining in and expectations of hitting the ground running. Gone are the days of settling into a new company and role; information availability and competitive pressures now do not provide the latitude of the past. I believe that irrespective of hierarchy and position (more so when you are towards the top of the pyramid), patience levels are low, performance benchmarks are high.

Are you up to it ?


  1. Arun,

    This is a nice example narrative of the honeymoon period. As a career consultant leading up to my first CIO role, I can say I took one of your suggestions without knowing it - I engaged with my future employer on a strategic project, with one of my intentions from the start to evaluate whether they were a company to which I wanted to make a CIO offer.

    That different perspective in the "consulting" engagement helped me to gather a lot of information and make powerful assessments while I held the company "in probation", and when I sensed they were erceptive and I made the offer, it was with moer open eyes than if I had hired in directly from a recruiting cycle.

    I am surprised that I don't hear of that approach more often, as the period allowed both of us to try-before-we-buy.


    1. Ken,

      Thanks for sharing; I have observed many struggling despite such opportunities being given to them literally on a plate. CXOs can fast track their careers cementing their positions in new enterprises with a proactive approach.