Throughout this series I have referred to Michael Watkins’ book, The First 90 Days, and I ask you to indulge me as I do so again.
Almost ten years ago I discovered his STaRS model and it has become one of the most useful models for discussion in my coaching practice. It’s a very simple concept but it provokes such interesting questions and dialogue by focusing on four phases of business evolution; start-up, turnaround, realignment and sustaining success. It also incorporates the familiar business evaluation cycles (Growth, Recovery, and Crisis).
The STaRS model is incredibly helpful for leaders in new environments because it creates a framework for alignment on the current climate from the viewpoints of the leader, the team and the boss. One business unit might be in the turnaround phase while another is in recovery mode and yet another may be sustaining success, and that’s not uncommon. The goal is to agree on where things stand now so you can move forward as a unified force, just as one of my clients recently did:
Michelle was put in charge of a very large business unit that had been in the top third of the company around performance and profitability. After a long history of success, the unit had fallen to bottom third. Rather than be alarmed, the team’s attitude was, “It will get better tomorrow. This is not our fault.” That was true to a certain extent, but they were in total denial that they needed to make a change.
When Michelle looked at the issue, what she saw instead of people ready to take action was a team that talked about how successful they had been and how the problem would get better tomorrow. She placed them in the realignment phase but that’s not where they identified themselves. Recognizing this disconnect, Michelle was able to have critical team and leadership discussions, bringing alignment around the thinking that change needed to happen.
This created a light at the end of the tunnel. She launched process improvement initiatives that eventually moved the team to the middle third of the company in terms of performance and profitability. That was the motivation the team needed and, one year later, they were back in the top third once again.
The real beauty of the STaRS model is that it works on a variety of levels; business unit, product, process, even people. I encourage you to ask and answer the following questions:
- Which of the four STaRS situations are you facing?
- What are the implications or challenges and opportunities that you are likely to confront?
- Which of your skills and strengths are most likely to be valuable in this situation and which are likely to trip you up?
When you take the time to not only define your view and that of your stakeholders, but to align those views, the resulting clarity will reveal the steps you need to take to get where you want to go.
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