The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

4.5 2
by Michael Watkins

View All Available Formats & Editions

Named one of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime by Amazon Editors

The world’s most trusted guide for leaders in transition

Transitions are a critical time for leaders. In fact, most agree that moving into a new role is the biggest challenge a manager will face. While transitions offer a chance to start fresh and make


Named one of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime by Amazon Editors

The world’s most trusted guide for leaders in transition

Transitions are a critical time for leaders. In fact, most agree that moving into a new role is the biggest challenge a manager will face. While transitions offer a chance to start fresh and make needed changes in an organization, they also place leaders in a position of acute vulnerability. Missteps made during the crucial first three months in a new role can jeopardize or even derail your success.

In this updated and expanded version of the international bestseller The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins offers proven strategies for conquering the challenges of transitions—no matter where you are in your career. Watkins, a noted expert on leadership transitions and adviser to senior leaders in all types of organizations, also addresses today’s increasingly demanding professional landscape, where managers face not only more frequent transitions but also steeper expectations once they step into their new jobs.

By walking you through every aspect of the transition scenario, Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter and provides the tools and strategies you need to avoid them. You’ll learn how to secure critical early wins, an important first step in establishing yourself in your new role. Each chapter also includes checklists, practical tools, and self-assessments to help you assimilate key lessons and apply them to your own situation.

Whether you’re starting a new job, being promoted from within, embarking on an overseas assignment, or being tapped as CEO, how you manage your transition will determine whether you succeed or fail. Use this book as your trusted guide.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“His wisdom, and research, has helped many masterfully onboard into new positions.” —

“Watkins has taken a rather prosaic proposition (first impressions count) and built around it a handbook that grown-ups can use in business, particularly in times of change and transition.” — Idealog (New Zealand)

“A useful addition to leadership studies collections.” — Choice magazine

The First 90 Days is a rich source of material for any executive coach and of course any uncoached executive. I highly recommend it.” — Coaching Today

The First 90 Days and its digital counterpart serve as valued resources for leaders just stepping into a critical new role—when first impressions matter so much, and every word or deed can tip the scale of public opinion.” — T+D magazine (American Society for Training & Development)

“No business holding should be without this expanded coverage.” — Midwest Book Review

“Any person who gets a new job or promotion or position, can use this book to be more effective in the first 3 months on the job…. It is no doubt that [The First 90 Days] has lasting-power and will remain popular and useful for many years to come.” — 800 CEO READ

“…packed with practical suggestions for how to successfully navigate through new scenarios.” —

“In his seminal book The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins advises that, as a leader in the first 90 days of a new leadership role, you should promote yourself, accelerate your learning, match your strategy to the situation, and create coalitions.” —

“a superb guide” — Globe & Mail

The Economist
It is meant for, and should be useful to, anyone about to make a change.
December 19, 2003
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
Watkins provides enough statistics, charts, and checklists to help any newly minted boss roam the halls with confidence.
November 10, 2003
The Globe and Mail easy-to-ready and easy-to-follow handbook that no doubt will become a classic for anybody entering a new position.
Nov.12, 2003
Watkins' book is packed with tested real-world advice designed to help the new executive make a strong first impression...
October 27, 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

Product Details

Harvard Business Review Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Updated & Expanded
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are saying about this

Colonel Eli Alford
Every job-private- or public-sector, civilian or military-has its breakeven point, and everyone can accelerate their learning. Read this book at least twice: once before your next transition-before getting caught up in the whirl and blur of new faces, names, acronyms, and issues; then read it again after you've settled in, and consider how to accelerate transitions for your next new boss and for those who come to work for you. (U.S. Army)
Goli Darabi
Few companies develop a systematic 'on-boarding' process for their new leaders, even though this is a critical function with major organizational implications. Michael Watkins's The First 90 Days provides a powerful framework and strategies that will enable new leaders to take charge quickly. It is an invaluable tool for that most vulnerable time-the transition. (Senior Vice President, Corporate Leadership & Succession Management, Fidelity Investments)
Mike Kinkead
The First 90 Days is a must-read for entrepreneurs. Anyone who's been the CEO of a start-up or early-stage company knows that you go through many 90-day leadership transitions in the course of a company's formative years. In this groundbreaking book, Michael Watkins provides crucial insights, as well as a toolkit of techniques, to enable you to accelerate through these transitions successfully. (President and CEO, timeBLASTER Corporation, serial entrepreneur, and Cofounder and Trustee, Massachusetts Software Council)
Suzanne M. Danielle
Watkins provides an excellent road map, telling us what all new leaders need to know and do to accelerate their learning and success in a new role. The First 90 Days should be incorporated into every company's leadership development strategy, so that anyone making a transition in an organization can get up to speed quicker and smarter. (Director of Global Leadership Development, Aventis)
Gordon Curtis
Michael Watkins has nailed a huge corporate problem and provided the solution in one fell swoop. The pressure on new leaders to hit the ground running has never been greater, and the likelihood and cost of failure is escalating. Watkins's timing with The First 90 Days is impeccable. (Principal, Curtis Consulting)

Meet the Author

Michael D. Watkins is a cofounder of Genesis Advisers, a leadership development consultancy that specializes in the design of onboarding and transition acceleration solutions, workshops, and coaching for Fortune 500 companies.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 0 reviews.