I’ve had a stack of stuff that I’ve meant to comment on, but set aside, forgot, etc. Here’s a link to a great HBR article from the February 2008 issue “The New Leader’s Guide to Diagnosing the Business“. The authors put together a powerful and flexible template that can be applied to most business environments.
[I]t is built on four widely accepted principles that define any successful performance-improvement program. First, costs and prices almost always decline; second, your competitive position determines your options; third, customers and profit pools don’t stand still; and fourth, simplicity gets results. Along with each principle, we offer question sets and analytic tools to help you determine your position and future actions.
In particular, I like the emphasis on quick, but focused, action. Maybe you can think of this article as the quick and dirty complement to The New Leaders’ 100-Day Action Plan.
[G]ather a lot of data quickly, ideally within the first three or four months of your tenure. Ask your senior leaders to head up teams that take on as many questions relevant to their areas of responsibility as they can handle. Ask for short, focused presentations to facilitate discussions about the main threats and opportunities. That should enable you and your teams to make quick, accurate decisions about the few areas on which to concentrate your efforts.