The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

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The international bestseller and globally acknowledged bible on leadership and career transitions

Fully a quarter of all managers in major corporations enter new leadership roles each year. Whether their assignments involve starting a new job, being promoted internally, or embarking on an international assignment, how new leaders manage their transitions can mean the difference between success and failure.

In The First 90 Days, Michael D. ...

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Overview


The international bestseller and globally acknowledged bible on leadership and career transitions

Fully a quarter of all managers in major corporations enter new leadership roles each year. Whether their assignments involve starting a new job, being promoted internally, or embarking on an international assignment, how new leaders manage their transitions can mean the difference between success and failure.

In The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins, a noted expert on leadership transitions, offers proven strategies for moving successfully into a new role at any point in one's career. Concise and practical, The First 90 Days walks managers through every aspect of the transition, from mental preparation to forging the right alliances to securing critical early wins. Through vivid examples of successes and failures at all levels, Michael Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter and provides tools and strategies for how to avoid them.

As hundreds of thousands of readers already know, The First 90 Days is your roadmap for taking charge quickly and effectively during critical career transition periods—whether you’re a first-time manager, a midcareer professional on your way up, or a newly minted CEO.

Published by Harvard Business Review Press.

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Editorial Reviews

Financial Times
"... Watkins offers a do-it-yourself road map for executives, whether ... moving into start-ups, leading turnarounds, orchestrating changes or sustaining high-performance companies."
October 9, 2003
Fortune
Watkins provides enough statistics, charts, and checklists to help any newly minted boss roam the halls with confidence.
November 10, 2003
ExecuNet
Watkins' book is packed with tested real-world advice designed to help the new executive make a strong first impression...
October 27, 2003
The Economist
It is meant for, and should be useful to, anyone about to make a change.
December 19, 2003
The Globe and Mail
...an easy-to-ready and easy-to-follow handbook that no doubt will become a classic for anybody entering a new position.
Nov.12, 2003
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
In The First 90 Days, Harvard Business School professor Michael Watkins presents a road map for taking charge in your first 90 days in a management job. The first days in a new position are critical because small differences in your actions can have a huge impact on long-term results.

Leaders at all levels are very vulnerable in their first few months in a new job because they lack in-depth knowledge of the challenges they'll face and what it will take to succeed with their new company. Failure to create momentum in the first 90 days virtually guarantees an uphill battle for the rest of an executive's tenure.

The First 90 Days will equip you with strategies and tools to get up to speed faster and achieve more sooner. This summary will show you how to diagnose your situation and understand its challenges and opportunities. You'll also learn how to assess your own strengths and weaknesses, how to quickly establish priorities, and how to manage key relationships that will help you succeed.

Promote Yourself
"Promoting yourself" doesn't mean self-serving behavior, grandstanding or hiring a PR firm to tell the world about you. It means mentally preparing yourself to move into your new role by putting the past behind you and getting a running start by working hard to learn all you can about your new position.

Accelerate Your Learning
Usually when a new leader swerves off course, failure to learn is a factor. There is so much new information to absorb that it's difficult to know where to focus and important signals can be missed. Or when a new boss focuses too heavily on the technological side of the business - products, customers, technologies and strategies - critical learning about culture and politics is shortchanged.

The fact that few managers have received training in systematically diagnosing an organization compounds the problem. Those who have had such training are usually human resource professionals or former management consultants.

Match Strategy to Situation
Far too many new leaders don't effectively diagnose their situations and tailor their strategies accordingly. Then, because they don't understand the situation, they make unnecessary mistakes. This painful cycle happens because people usually model their transitions on a limited set of experiences.

Matching your strategy to your situation requires diagnosing the business situation carefully. Only after you've diagnosed the situation can you act wisely about the challenges of your new job and the opportunities and resources available to you.

Secure Early Wins
By the end of your transition, you want your boss, your peers and your subordinates to feel that something new and good is happening. Early wins excite and energize people, build your credibility, and quickly create value for your organization. It's crucial to get early wins, but it is also important to get them the right way.

Negotiate Success
Negotiating success means engaging with your new boss to shape the game so you have a good chance of achieving your goals. Too many new leaders just play the game, reacting to the situation that exists and failing as a result. Negotiate with your boss to establish realistic expectations, reach agreement on the situation, and secure sufficient resources to get things done.

Achieve Alignment
The higher you climb in an organization, the more you assume the role of organizational architect, creating an environment in which others can perform well. No matter how charismatic you are, you can't hope to do much if key elements in your unit are out of alignment.

If strategy, structure, systems and skills are within your purview in your new position, you need to begin to analyze the architecture of your organization and assess alignment among these key elements. You can't hope to do much more than conduct a solid diagnosis and perhaps get started on addressing alignment issues in the first few months. But plans to assess the architecture of your group and to begin identifying areas for improvement should be included in your 90-day plan.

Build Your Team
If you create a high-performance team, you can exert tremendous leverage to create value. If not, you'll face severe difficulties because no leader can hope to achieve ambitious goals on his or her own. Poor personnel choices will usually come back to haunt you.

Finding the right people is essential, but it's not enough. Begin by evaluating current team members to decide who will stay and who will have to go. Then create a plan for obtaining new people and moving the people you keep into the right positions without doing too much damage to short-term performance. But even this is not enough. You still must establish goals, incentives and performance measures that will propel your team in the desired directions.

Create Coalitions
If your success depends on the support of people outside your direct line of command, it's important to create coalitions to get things done. Direct authority is never enough to win the day. "Influence networks" - informal bonds among colleagues - can help you generate support for your ideas and goals. Copyright © 2004 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591391104
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2003
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The First 90 Days 1
1 Promote Yourself 17
2 Accelerate Your Learning 33
3 Match Strategy to Situation 59
4 Secure Early Wins 79
5 Negotiate Success 103
6 Achieve Alignment 129
7 Build Your Team 157
8 Create Coalitions 185
9 Keep Your Balance 203
10 Expedite Everyone 225
Conclusion: Beyond Sink or Swim 237
Notes 241
Recommended Reading 245
Index 247
About the Author 253
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 73 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 73 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 13, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    This book is a great and practical guide to help any leader tran

    This book is a great and practical guide to help any leader transition into a new job, position, and organization--within 90 days (a critical timeframe to be considered as "hitting the ground running"). There's a checklist at the end of every chapter to help you absorb key lessons, apply them to your situation, and tailor them to your own transition plan. The book is loaded with practical strategies, lessons, and advice for a smooth transition.

    The First 90 Days - Chapter Summaries:

    INTRODUCTION: THE FIRST 90 DAYS

    - The actions you take in your first three months in a new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail.

    1. Promote Yourself: Make the mental break from your old job and prepare to take charge in the new one. The biggest pitfall you face is to assume that what has made you successful to this point in your career will continue to do so.

    2. Accelerate Your Learning: Accelerate the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. Understand its markets, products, technologies, systems, structures, and culture, and politics.

    3. Match Strategy to Situation: Diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities.

    4. Secure Early Wins: Early wins build your credibility and create momentum.

    5. Negotiate Success: Figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage his/her expectations. Plan for a series of critical conversations. Develop and gain consensus on your 90-day plan.

    6. Achieve Alignment: Figure out whether the organization's strategy is sound. Bring its structure into alignment with its strategy.

    7. Build Your Team: If you are inheriting a team, evaluate its members and restructure it to better meet the demands of the situation. Make tough early personnel calls.

    8. Create Coalitions: Influence people outside your direct line of control. Rely on supportive alliances, internal and external, to achieve your goals.

    9. Keep Your Balance: Work hard to maintain your equilibrium and preserve your ability to make good judgments.

    11. Expedite Everyone: Help everyone in your organization accelerate their own transitions.

    CONCLUSION: BEYOND SINK OR SWIM
    - The biggest danger you face is belief in a one-size-fits-all rule for success.

    All in all, The First 90 Days is now one of my absolute favorites, right up there with the other leadership must read Leadership 2.0.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2004

    An antidote to sink or swim

    This book is not just for managers at the executive level. It's also for you and me. It's for functional managers, project managers, and supervisors. The book targets new leaders at all levels that 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 organization needs you as much as you need the job. Here they are ... the ten strategies: 1. PROMOTE YOUSELF. 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 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. 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 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. 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 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. 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 - accelerate their own transitions. The quicker you can get your new direct reports up to speed, the more you will help your own performance. This book is not only relevant on the individual level. This transition process for new managers happens so often that it should be handled with more professionalism by (big) organizations. Whereas we as managers try t

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    Good summary on techniques and strategies for moving into new roles or situations

    I found the book well organized and clear in its suggestions on how to characterize new positions or organizational situations as well as strategies for assessing and planning the work ahead. Several tips around pre-planning, identifying quick wins and really thinking about the kind of organization or role you are moving into goes a long way in success. Many leaders I work with have read the book and continue to use its recommendations as they transition through organizational change.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2012

    A great process for anyone transitioning into a new role

    I found the process clear, logical and well written. I have not yet started my new role, however I intend to follow the steps as close a possible.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    New executive must read

    In my opinion, this and The Next Level (by Scott Eblin) should be required reading for all new executives. I've been in this new position for a couple months (yes, outside the 90 days noted in this title) and it is amazing to me how much of the information in each chapter applies. The chapters on Promoting Yourself, Securing Early Wins and Negotiating Success alone were worth the price of the book alone. This is a must read and a welcome edition to the library.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2006

    wonderful audio design

    This book has the normal business drab, with little new information for emerging leaders. I do admire the overall design of the audio program. This is the first audio book that I've read that has the figures included as a .pdf file on the last disk. Many a time I have been forced to find a hardcover copy of the book to see the figures the author discusses.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2007

    Success beginning Day One...

    As an HR professional, I found this book to be very helpful particularly as a coaching reference for the employee promoted into a leadership role. The book provides specific information, steps and guidelines for the individual to be successful in a leadership role - at any level. An employee will have greater success in his/her new role and bring value to the organization on Day One by following the guidelines and recommendations provided in detail in this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2005

    Packed with Knowledge!

    It doesn¿t matter what level of the organization your new leadership role is in - from project supervisor to CEO - every promotion brings a period of transition, the need for new skills and a set of new expectations, challenges and opportunities. Just because you¿ve been successful in one leadership role, you can¿t assume that your old strategy will automatically succeed in your new role. It probably won¿t. Take an analytical approach. Diagnose the situation and adapt your strategy to it. Michael Watkins¿ book tells you exactly how. If you will soon begin - or have already begun - a new leadership role, this book is an invaluable resource to help you map out your strategy, get on your boss¿s good side and accelerate your transition. Watkins provides fundamental information for anyone who wants to become a leader and stay on top, because he teaches you how to make a successful transition when your time comes. We recommend this excellent book to any leader at any level who is going through or embarking on a period of transition into a new role. Here¿s how to help make the transition more successful, faster and easier - on your staff, your boss and yourself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2004

    Good read but pricey

    This is a good book. I also read another book along the same lines as this one that was more condensed, less charts and graphs and about 1/2 the price. If you can for go the graphs and charts I recommend 'Your First 90 Days in a new Job

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2004

    His earlier stuff is good too.

    I work for a leading health care company and went through one of Watkins's transition forum programs here. If really helped me get off to a running start. We also got his negotiation book, Breakthrough Business Negotiation, which was very helpful. I've since read his book on influencing government and business strategy, Winning the Influence Game. Definitely helpful if you are dealing with issues of regulation and legislation as we are. It's nice to see him getting recognition for the First 90 days, but his earlier work is just as good, if negotiation or influence are important to what you do.

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