“The First 90 Days"
by Michael Watkins
First Ninety Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels" is written by Michael Watkins. When I think about this book, I always think about "Securing Early Wins". Other books in this genre include "You're in Charge, Now What?" and "The New Leaders 100-Day Action Plan." For longer term career planning consider books such as "Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers."
You can tell Watkins wrote the book after designing transition acceleration programs for different companies and working with leaders in transition. It is as specific as these types of books can be, I found his descriptive advice and illustrations helpful.
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.
Establish patterns / limits with boss and subordinates.
2. ACCELERATE YOUR LEARNING. Climb the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. 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.
-Engage in effective learning (what need to learn) and efficient learning (how do it best; in limited time) about the:
-Past: Performance, root causes, history of change
-Present: Vision and Strategy, People, Processes, Land Mines, Early Wins
-Future: Challenges and Opportunities, Barriers and Resources, Culture
-From Customers, Distributors, Suppliers, Outside Analysts, FrontLine R&D, Sales/Purchasing, Staff, Integrators (Project/Product Mgt), Natural Historians (old timers)
-The best script to use:
-What are the biggest challenges the organization is facing
-Why is the organization facing these challenges?
-What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth?
-If you were more, what would you focus your attention on?
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.
Challenges: - Dealing with deeply ingrained cultural norms that no longer contribute to high performance.
- Convincing employees that change is necessary.
- Restructuring the top team and refocusing the organization
Opportunities: - The organization has significant pockets of strength
- People want to continue to see themselves as successful
Challenges: -Playing good defense by avoiding decisions that cause problems
-Living in the shadow of a revered leader and dealing with the team he or she created
-Finding ways to take the business to the next level
Opportunities: -A strong team may already be in place
-People are motivated to succeed
-Foundations for continued success (such as the product pipeline) may be in place
You need to consider:
-How much learning vs. doing?
-How much offense vs. defense?
-What should you do to get some early wins?
-For Realignment: Learning and offense (new markets, products); for Sustaining: Learning and Defense (buttress existing mkts and products)
Early win: show that understand products and organization
4. SECURE EARLY WINS. Early victories build your credibility and create momentum. They create virtuous cycles that leverage organizational 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.
-Failing to focus
-Not taking the business situation into account
-Not adjusting for the culture
-Failing to get wins that matter to your boss
-Letting your means undermine your ends
Establish Long Terms Goals – In first 30 days; Establish next 60 day goals
New leaders are more credible if they are perceived as
-demanding but able to be satisfied
-accessible but not too familiar
-decisive but judicious
-focused but flexible
-active with causing commotion
-willing to make tough calls but humane
Early win candidates (launch a few since all won’t be successful)
-keep long term goals in mind
-identify a few promising focal points
-(launch pilot projects, elevate change agents, leverage the pilot projects to introduce new behaviors)
Potential Time Bombs:
-External environment (trends in public opinion)
-Customers, markets, competitors, and strategy
Plan then implement change:
-Awareness (everyone aware), Diagnosis, Vision, Plan, Support
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.
Building productive relationship with new boss
-Don’t trash the past
-Don’t stay away (get on boss’s calendar regularly; reach out to him/her)
-Don’t surprise your new boss
-Don’t approach boss w/ only problems
-Don’t run down your checklist
(don’t just review what doing, but discuss how he/she can help)
-Don’t try to change the boss
-Take 100 percent responsibility for making the relationship work
-Clarify mutual expectations early and often
-Negotiate timelines for diagnosis and action planning
-Aim for early wins and areas important to the boss
-Pursue good marks from those whose opinion your boss respects
-The situation diagnosis conversation
-The expectations conversation (short, medium term); What will you constitute success? How will your performance be measured
-The style conversation
-The resources conversation
-The personal development conversation
Under promise and over deliver
6. ACHIEVE ALIGNMENT. The higher you rise in an organization, the more you have to play the role of organizational architect. This means figuring out whether the organization's strategy is sound, bringing its structure into alignment with its strategy, and developing the systems and skills bases necessary to realize strategic intent.
Five elements of organizational architecture all need to work together:
-Strategy: the core approach the organization will use to accomplish goals
-Structure: how people are situated in units and how their work is coordinated
-Systems: The processes used to add value
-Skills: The capabilities of the various groups of people in the organization
-Culture: The values, norms, and assumptions that shape behavior
Common misalignment: skills and strategy, systems and strategy, structure and systems,
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.
Make who leaves / who stays calls at 90 days
Ask direct reports the 5 questions
What are the backups and options
Group Decision Making Spectrum:
More Leader Control / Less Leader Control
Unilateral / Consult-and-Decide / Build Consensus / Unanimous
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.
Influence without authority; create coalitions to get things done
Identify sources of power: Expertise
Access to information
Control of resources: budget, rewards
Personal Loyalty: Old Timers
Build Advice and Counsel Network:
Type: Technical Advisors
Roles: Provide expert analysis of technologies, markets, and strategy
How They Help: The suggest applications for new technologies. They recommend strategies for entering new markets. They provide timely and accurate information
Type: Cultural Interpreters
Roles: Help you understand the new culture and (if that is your objective) to adapt to it
How They Help: They provide you with insight into cultural norms, mental models, and guiding assumptions. They help you learn to speak the language of the new organization
Type: Political counselors
Roles: Help you deal with political relationships within your new organization
How They Help: They help you implement the advice of your technical advisers. They serve as a sounding board as you think through options for implementing your agenda. They challenge you with what-if questions
Reduce the perceived costs of action or increase the perceived costs of inaction
Values invoked to get people to embrace difficult change:
-Loyalty: Commitment to an ideal. Sacrifice to realize
-Commitment & Contribution: Service to customers and suppliers. Sacrifice to realize that ideal
-Individual Worth & Dignity: Respect for the individual expressed as elimination of exploitative or patronizing practices and promotion of decency and opportunity for all. Providing the means for individuals to realize their potential
-Integrity: Respect for the letter and spirit of the law. Ethical and honest behavior. Fairness in all interactions
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 - accelerate their own transitions. The quicker you can get your new direct reports up to speed, the more you will help your own performance.