The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins

The First 90 Days
by Michael Watkins

The First 90 Days by Michael WatkinsSummary

Whether challenged with taking on a start-up, turning a business around, or inheriting a high-performing unit, a new leader’s success or failure is determined within the first 90 days on the job. In this hands-on guide, Michael Watkins, a noted expert on leadership transitions, offers strategies for moving successfully into a new role at any point in one’s career.

The First 90 Days provides a framework for transition acceleration that will help leaders to:

  • diagnose their situations
  • craft winning transition strategies
  • take charge quickly.

Practical examples illustrate how to learn about new organisations, build teams, create coalitions, secure early wins, and lay the foundation for longer-term success. In addition, Watkins provides strategies for avoiding the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter, and shows how individuals can protect themselves – emotionally as well as professionally – during what is often an intense and vulnerable period.

This book is not just for executive level. It’s for functional managers, project managers and supervisors. The book targets new leaders at all levels who are making the transition from one rung of the ladder to the next.

If you have just been promoted to a new leadership position (or expect to be soon), then this book is for you.

The book outlines ten strategies that will shorten the time it takes you to reach what Watkins calls the breakeven point: the point at which your organisation needs you as much as you need the job. Here are the ten strategies:

1. Promote yourself. Make a mental break from your old job. Prepare to take charge in the new one. Don’t assume that what has made you successful so far will continue to do so. The dangers of sticking with what you know, working hard at doing it, and failing miserably are very real.

2. Accelerate your learning. Climb the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organisation. Understand markets, products, technologies, systems and structures, as well as its culture and politics. It feels like drinking from a fire hose. So you have to be systematic and focused about deciding what you need to learn.

3. Match strategy to situation. There are no universal rules for success in transitions. You need to diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities. The author identifies four very different situations: launching a start-up, leading a turnaround, devising a realignment, and sustaining a high-performing unit. You need to know what your unique situation looks like before you develop your action plan.

4. Secure early wins. Early victories build your credibility and create momentum. They create virtuous cycles that leverage organisational energy. In the first few weeks, you need to identify opportunities to build personal credibility. In the first 90 days, you need to identify ways to create value and improve business results.

5. Negotiate success. You need to figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage his or her expectations. No other relationship is more important. This means having a series of critical talks about the situation, expectations, style, resources, and your personal development. Crucially, it means developing and gaining consensus on your 90-day plan.

6. Achieve alignment. The higher you rise in an organisation, the more you have to play the role of organisational architect. This means figuring out whether the organisation’s strategy is sound, bringing its structure into alignment with its strategy, and developing the systems and skill bases necessary to realise strategic intent.

7. Build your team. If you are inheriting a team, you will need to evaluate its members. Perhaps you need to restructure it to better meet demands of the situation. Your willingness to make tough early personnel calls and your capacity to select the right people for the right positions are among the most important drivers of success during your transition.

8. Create coalitions. Your success will depend on your ability to influence people outside your direct line of control. Supportive alliances, both internal and external, will be necessary to achieve your goals.

9. Keep your balance. The risks of losing perspective, getting isolated, and making bad calls are ever present during transitions. The right advice-and-counsel network is an indispensable resource

10. Expedite everyone. Finally, you need to help everyone else – direct reports, bosses and peers – to accelerate their own transitions. The quicker you can get your new direct reports up to speed, the more you will help your own performance.

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