The First 90 Days
In this issue: Critical Success Strategies for
s Learn... New Leaders at All Levels
how you can succeed in any by Michael Watkins
new leadership role by fol-
lowing 10 steps to make a
positive impact on your A summary of the original text.
organization in your first
ach year, more than half transition, you will face an
three months on the job.
E a million managers enter
new positions in Fortune
uphill battle from that point
how you can slash the time
it takes you to reach the 500 companies alone. That’s
break-even point: the point about one in every four Your goal should be to
at which your company managers in the average arrive as quickly as possible
needs you as much as you company — or, looked at to the break-even point, at
another way, it means the which you have contributed
s Understand... average manager changes as much value to the busi-
how to achieve your goals jobs every four years. ness as you have consumed
whether you are launching a from it. When 210 CEOs
start-up, leading a turn-
around, orchestrating a If you’re in a new leadership were asked how long it
realignment, or sustaining a position in business, you’re takes a mid-level manager
high-performing unit. allowed 90 days to prove to reach the break-even
yourself. The actions you point, their answer was six
the skills you need to pro- take during your first three months. Using the 10-point
mote yourself, accelerate your months in a new job will plan we will discuss, that
learning, match the strategy largely determine whether time can be cut substantially.
to the situation, secure early you will succeed or fail in
wins, and exceed everyone’s
expectations. the long term. The faster you reach the
break-even point (as illus-
s Transform... Transitions are periods of trated on page 2), the sooner
your business by achieving opportunity, a chance for a you can concentrate on fix-
alignment, building an
effective team, creating fresh start for yourself and ing problems, exploiting
coalitions, keeping your bal- your organization. But they opportunities, and building
ance, and helping others are also periods of acute the business.
reach the break-even point. vulnerability, because you
ss lack established working Here are the 10 key steps
Volume 13, No. 3 (2 sections). Section 1, March 2004. relationships and a detailed you can take to move
© 2004 Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries 13-5.
No part of this publication may be used or reproduced understanding of your new through your job transition
in any manner whatsoever without written permission. role. If you fail to build smoothly:
To order additional copies of this summary, reference momentum during your
THE BREAK-EVEN POINT Belgium, and fumbled in
dealing with a racial discrim-
ination suit at headquarters
Seeing the big picture, and
dealing with key external
Value Net Contribution = 0
constituencies, were not his
Created core competencies, and he
shied away from these criti-
cal tasks. The key to his
Value Months after entry failure was that he had not
mentally prepared himself
for the transition from COO
To avoid that fate, it is essen-
tial to establish a clear
1. Promote yourself. to legendary CEO Robert breakpoint. Consciously
Goizueta. think of letting the old job go
2. Accelerate your learning. and embracing the new one.
Ivester orchestrated the Think hard about the differ-
3. Match the strategy to the highly-successful spin-off of ences and requirements of
situation. the bottling operations in the two. Seek advice from
1986. He also oversaw the people who might help you in
4. Secure early wins. expansion into Eastern understanding the new job.
Europe in 1989. Ivester was
5. Negotiate success. a rising star, and was When you move into the new
rewarded accordingly, becom- position, you have to hit the
6. Achieve alignment. ing president and COO of the ground running. One useful
company in 1994. When exercise is to start planning
7. Build your team. Goizueta died suddenly, milestones you wish to hit at
Ivester was the obvious specific times — remember
8. Create coalitions. choice to succeed him as that you have only 90 days to
CEO. And he failed. prove yourself. For example,
9. Keep your balance. set specific goals for the very
How could such an obviously first day on the job. What
10. Expedite everyone. talented man with such a would you like to have done
great track record fail? that first day?
For the rest of this summary,
we'll focus on each of these He had been a "numbers Then move to the first week,
10 steps. guy," detail-oriented, and the first month, and so on.
was known as a "super- Even if the plan is sketchy
ss COO." But when he became in its details, it will help,
CEO, he could not let go of and you can revise it as
1. PROMOTE YOURSELF that job and in fact, refused you go along and gain more
to name a new COO. He experience.
If you think you can't fail in could not let go of his atten-
transition, consider the case tion to detail in favor of the Even as you're planning your
of Douglas Ivester, once the big strategic picture required milestones, assess your vul-
CEO of Coca-Cola. An by the new job. He began nerabilities. One of the ways
accountant by training, he alienating everyone he came to do that is to ask yourself
had spent nearly 20 years in contact with. He lost an what kinds of problems you
rising through the ranks of important acquisition in like solving most. That was
Coca-Cola. In 1985, he was France, failed to take charge Ivester's problem at Coke:
named CFO at the age of 37. when Coke was contaminat- He chose to focus on problems
He was the right-hand man ed at a bottling plant in that he was comfortable
solving, and he paid too little you the truth. One learning disability is
attention to the rest. You the failure to even try to
have no doubt perfected You'll need to negotiate clear understand the history of the
skills at solving certain kinds expectations with your old organization. Every leader
of problems, and those are boss as you make the some- should start by asking, "How
probably the ones you like times-messy transition from did we get to this point?"
most. But that could leave one job to another. Both of Otherwise, you risk tearing
you vulnerable if those aren't you have to know not only down fences without knowing
the requirements of the new what will be done but — why they were put up. Once
job. equally important — what you know the history, you
will not be done. may find you can get rid of
Most problems will fall into the fence — or that there is a
one of three categories: Don't get caught like Ivester, good reason to leave it where
trying to do two jobs at once. it is.
1. Technical problems One of the keys to success in
involve strategy, mar- transition is learning how to Other new leaders suffer
kets, technologies, and learn again. It may have from a near-compulsive need
processes. been some time since you to take immediate action.
had to re-learn your job, and Listening and observing
2. Political problems con- it may be uncomfortable. should always be the first
cern power and politics Let's take a look at the actions you take. Worse than
in the organization. process. that are leaders who arrive
with the solution already in
3. Cultural problems ss mind, before they've even
involve values, norms, studied the problem. What
and guiding assumptions. 2. ACCELERATE YOUR works in one organizational
LEARNING culture may fail miserably in
For example, ask yourself if another.
you deal best with customer When a new leader derails,
relationships, budgeting, failure to learn is almost If you approach your efforts
cost-cutting, product posi- always a factor. There is to get up to speed as an
tioning, or cross-functional such a torrent of information investment process, you will
cooperation. Look carefully at first that it can be difficult realize returns in the form of
at what the new job entails, to know where to focus. You actionable insights. An
and see how your problem may focus on technology, for actionable insight is knowl-
preferences fit or fail to fit. example, and forget to learn edge that enables you to
Where there are gaps, pre- about the culture and politics make better decisions sooner,
pare to do the tough work to of the new position. and to reach the break-even
bring yourself up to speed on point faster.
those areas. It's going to Another problem is the
take discipline. failure to plan to learn. To gain actionable insights,
Planning to learn means fig- you need to talk to external
The main tools for dealing uring out in advance what sources of information,
with your vulnerabilities are the important questions are including customers, distrib-
self-discipline, team building, and how you can best answer utors, suppliers, and outside
and advice and counsel. You them. Few new leaders take analysts. You should also get
will need to do the jobs you the time to think systemati- information from internal
don't enjoy as much. You cally about their learning sources, such as people in
will have to consciously priorities. Fewer still explic- sales, purchasing, R&D,
restructure your team, bring- itly create a learning plan finance, human resources,
ing in those people who can when entering a new role. and so on.
compensate for your weak-
nesses and letting go of some Some leaders even have Other people who can pro-
others, perhaps people you're "learning disabilities," or vide useful insights are
fond of working with. And crippling internal blocks to historians — that is, people
you will have to create a net- learning. who have been with the
work of advisors who can tell company a long time and
BUSINESS BOOK SUMMARIES 3
know the roots of its culture • What is the stated vision these five questions:
— as well as integrators, and strategy?
such as project managers 1. What are the biggest
and product managers, who • Is the organization really challenges the company
coordinate cross-functional pursuing that strategy? is facing now and will
interaction; these people can If not, why not? face in the near future?
help you to identify the true
hierarchies and tell you • Among the company’s 2. Why is the organization
where the internal conflicts people, who is capable facing or going to face
lie. and who is not? these challenges?
The questions you need to • What are the key 3. What are the most
ask these sources are based processes, and are they promising opportunities
on your learning agenda. performing acceptably? for growth?
Your learning agenda is a If not, why not?
focused set of questions you 4. What would need to
will use to help you get the • What cultural or political happen for the company
answers you need the most. missteps must you avoid to exploit them?
To create a learning agenda, making?
list the most important ques- 5. If you were me, what
tions you need to answer • In what areas — people, would you focus attention
about the past, the present, relationships, processes, on?
and the future. or products — can you
achieve some early wins? This will allow you to find
Under the subject of the out if there is consensus
past, ask about performance, Finally, examine the future: about these matters and also
root causes, and history: give you a reading on your
• In what areas is the direct reports. Are there fin-
• What has the past business most likely to ger-pointers in the group?
performance been? face stiff challenges in Do people answer honestly or
the coming year? evasively? Who has the big
• How were goals set? picture?
Were they too big or too • What are the most
small? promising opportunities? As you go through the
learning process, you will
• Were benchmarks used? • What are the biggest repeatedly collect informa-
barriers to change? tion, analyze and distill it,
• What measures were develop hypotheses, and test
employed, and what • Are there islands of them, progressively deepen-
behaviors did they excellence that you can ing your understanding of
encourage and leverage? the organization. Only then
discourage? can you begin the process of
• What new capabilities diagnosing the business situ-
• What happened if goals will you need to develop ation, a vital step in moving
were not met? or acquire? toward meaningful action.
• What efforts have been • Which elements of the ss
made to change the culture should be pre-
organization? What served, and which need 3. MATCH THE STRATEGY
happened? to be changed? TO THE SITUATION
• Who has been instru- Using a structured learning There are four types of busi-
mental in shaping this process can make much bet- ness situations that new
organization? ter use of your time and leaders must contend with:
accelerate your transition.
Next, assess the present: Meet with your direct reports 1. Start-up
one by one, and ask them
2. Turnaround THE STARS MODEL
4. Sustaining success
We will refer to this frame-
work of transition types as
the STARS Model. Knowing
which situation you face will
help crystallize your strategy
In a start-up, you will have
to put together the people,
funding, and technology to
get a new business, product,
or project off the ground. In
a turnaround, you have to success. One of the keys to recruiting new people?
take a troubled unit by the moving toward sustaining
horns and get it back on success in any of these cases In turnarounds and start-
track. Both involve resource- it to address the psychology ups, the emphasis is on
intensive construction work of the organization. taking action. You'll have to
rather than using existing make decisions early and
infrastructure or capacity. • In a start-up, people are often without complete infor-
On the plus side, you are get- going to be excited but mation. Learning is still
ting a fresh start. On the may lack direction. Your required, but it's going to
negative side, you'll have to job will be to channel be mostly technical at first.
make some tough calls early their energy in productive Fortunately, that's the
on. directions. easiest kind of learning.
In a realignment, you are • In turnarounds, people In sustaining success situa-
taking charge of a unit that will be demoralized. tions and realignments, the
is drifting into trouble and Your job is to provide the emphasis is on learning,
needs revitalization. In a light at the end of the because you're dealing with
sustaining success situation, tunnel. people who are successful in
you will need to preserve the the first case, and in the sec-
vitality of a successful orga- • In realignments, you ond case, you're dealing with
nization and shepherd it to will have to overcome people who think they are.
the next level. In these two people's denial before Early mistakes will be costly.
situations, you will have helping them reinvent Fortunately, you have more
some time before having to the business. time to learn. Delve deeply
make the big decisions, into organizational culture
which allows you more time • In a sustaining success and politics.
to learn. On the downside, it situation, you'll have to
will be harder to gauge your combat complacency and In a realignment or a sus-
progress. find new challenges to taining success, it is more
maintain growth. important than ever to
Obviously, a start-up, turn- secure those all-important
around, or realignment that You'll have to allocate your early wins. Let's discuss how
succeeds becomes a sustain- resources differently depend- to do that in more detail.
ing success situation. A ing on the type of STARS
turnaround or start-up that situation you're in. For ss
fails gets shut down. But a example, how much time
realignment that fails can should you devote to learning 4. SECURE EARLY WINS
become a turnaround with as opposed to making deci-
a chance for sustaining sions, initiating changes, or What can you hope to
BUSINESS BOOK SUMMARIES 5
accomplish in 90 days? By agree with your boss's flexibility while you
the end of your transition, priorities, you have to learn more about your
you want your boss, your take them into account situation.
peers, and your subordinates in planning your wins. If
to feel that something new, you fix an important The second half of the equa-
something good, is happen- problem for your boss, it tion, changing people's
ing. Doing this requires is a huge win. behavior, is just as important
avoiding the five most as achieving those A-item
common traps in transition. • The fifth and final trap is priorities. Develop a clear
letting your means vision of how you would like
• The first trap is the fail- undermine your ends. people to behave by the end
ure to focus. During the You can't use means of your tenure, and plan how
transition, things can get that are manipulative, your early wins will advance
confusing fast. You can't underhanded, or incon- that process of change.
hope to achieve results in sistent with the culture,
more than a couple of no matter how big the This will have two phases:
areas at the start. win might be in the end. building your credibility
Identify the best oppor- Align your wins with in the first 30 days, and
tunities and focus relent- behavior you hope to beginning to achieve early
lessly on translating instill in your new performance improvements
them into early wins. organization. in the remaining 60 days.
• The second trap is not Early wins are the building Your earliest actions will
taking the business sit- blocks of your credibility, and have the greatest impact.
uation into account. should lay the foundation for Think hard about what mes-
What can be a win in one your long-term goals in the sage you want them to send.
STARS situation will be a company. Remember, the Identify your key audiences
loss in another. Simply transition is 90 days, but you for those messages, such as
getting people to talk will be in that job two or your boss, your direct
about change can be a more years. Your early wins reports, your peers, and out-
big win in a realignment will set the tone for those side constituencies, such as
but a loss in a turn- years and dictate to some customers and suppliers.
around, where action extent what you're able to Focus on who you are and
is required. Think tacti- accomplish. what your values are. Here
cally about what will be are some questions people
required. There are two broad areas will be asking about you
you want to influence: You when you first arrive:
• The third trap is not want to move toward imple-
adjusting to the cul- menting your A-item • Do you have the insight
ture. If you're coming in business priorities, and you and steadiness to make
from outside, this is a want to introduce the new tough decisions?
great risk. Beware your pattern of behavior for
preconceptions of what your organization. Keep • Do you have values that
constitutes a win. In three principles in mind as they relate to, admire,
some cultures, the indi- you establish your A-item and want to emulate?
vidual pursuit of glory is priorities.
frowned upon. In others, • Do you have the right
it's admired. Should you 1. A-item priorities should kind of energy?
lead a team to success, or follow naturally from
do it on your own? Only core problems. • Do you demand high lev-
a correct reading of the els of performance from
culture can tell you. 2. They should be neither yourself and others?
too general nor too
• The fourth trap is fail- specific. In shaping how people are
ing to get wins that going to answer those ques-
matter to your boss. 3. They should offer clear tions, consider the following:
Even if you do not fully direction, yet allow for New leaders are perceived as
more credible when they are: 90-day plan. Out of this conversation,
you'll be able to figure out
• Demanding, but able to This can be done through some early wins that will
be satisfied. five conversations, which you align with your boss's priori-
will plan and execute. They ties. That will secure you
• Accessible, but not too will cover: the help you need to go to
familiar. the next level.
1. The business situation.
• Decisive, but judicious. Once you move into action,
2. Expectations on both always promise slightly less
• Focused, but flexible. sides. than you deliver. No one will
complain if you delight them
• Active, without causing 3. Style of interaction. with surprise bonuses. But
commotion. promising what you can't
4. Resources you'll need deliver hurts credibility.
• Willing to make tough compared with what is
calls, but humane. available. Go back frequently to con-
firm that you're on the same
With this in mind, you can 5. Your personal page with your boss. Ask the
then set your strategy for development on the job. same question in different
specific initiatives. ways to gain insight. Read
Remember to keep your long- Let's take them one at a between the lines. Put your-
term goals in mind while time. self in your boss's shoes.
identifying a few promising Don't let key issues remain
areas where improvement The first conversation is ambiguous.
can be made quickly. Master about reaching a shared
those areas and then launch understanding of the busi- Once you have negotiated
a pilot project to test your ness situation. This will help expectations, you are ready
hypothesis. Identify people define which of the STARS for the style conversation.
at all levels who have the models you'll use to design This will determine how you
insight, drive, and incentives your overall plan. Once you and your boss can best work
to advance your agenda and have defined which situation together. The first step is to
promote them. Then reward you're in, you'll need to diagnose his style.
them for success. define your boss's role in
helping you achieve results. For example, does your boss
ss prefer voice mail or e-mail?
For example, you may need If you have to leave an
5. NEGOTIATE SUCCESS help in getting resources in a important message, that's
start-up or turnaround, or a key piece of information.
One of the most important help in making the case for Does he prefer talking
elements of your success in change in a realignment. face-to-face, or exchanging
transition is your boss. The This conversation will lay the written messages?
time you invest in this criti- groundwork for everything
cal relationship is well worth you do in those crucial 90 What kinds of decisions does
it. Your boss sets your days. he want to be involved with,
benchmarks, interprets your and what kind will just
actions for others, and con- The second conversation is annoy him to know about?
trols access to resources. He about expectations — yours Does he arrive early and
or she is the gatekeeper of and your boss's. This is work late? Compare and
the break-even point. where you set short- and contrast your two styles and
medium-term goals and see where they mesh or
The best strategy is to define what success is going clash. Talk to others.
negotiate some realistic to look like. You'll decide on
expectations up front, reach a timeframe for milestones In the end, remember that
a consensus, and secure and look to the future beyond it's your responsibility to
enough resources to succeed. those targets. build a good relationship
To do that requires having a with your boss and not the
BUSINESS BOOK SUMMARIES 7
other way around. You are Going through those conver- the strategy, including
going to have to adapt to his sations will help you to changes in positioning and
style. If he doesn't like voice develop a 90-day plan. Once supporting capabilities.
mail, don't use it. If he wants your boss has bought into Work out a realistic time-
all the details of every deci- that plan, it is your ticket to frame for those changes.
sion, deliver them. When in success in transition. If you Remember, you'll have to
doubt, ask. And if serious plan to use the first 30 days reshape structure, systems,
issues of style come up, for learning and building and skills at the same time.
address them directly and personal credibility, make
honestly. sure it's negotiated with your A key element in assessing
boss up front, and don't allow alignment is looking at how
Once you've laid this ground- yourself to be derailed with your group's strategy is
work, confront the issue of unexpected projects. actually being implemented.
resources. This will differ Look at what people are
markedly depending on which ss doing, not what they're
situation you are in. In a saying.
start-up, you need money and 6. ACHIEVE ALIGNMENT
technical support, along with For example, if the strategy
people to do the job right. In The higher you climb in a calls for new skills, is a
a turnaround, you need company, the more you take training program in place to
authority backed by political on the role of organizational develop them? If it requires
support. In a realignment, architect. If the company’s cross-functional teams, are
you need public backing to strategy, structure, systems, those people actually work-
confront the need for change. and skills aren't aligned, ing together? From this
And in a sustaining success your job will be far more sort of probing, you can see
situation, you need financial difficult. if the problem lies in the
and technical resources to strategy itself or in its
exploit new opportunities. Your 90-day plan should implementation.
include an assessment of
When you set your resource alignment and how to In order to make a complete
goals, plan ahead. It's not improve it. You can even get diagnosis before taking
good to keep going back for started on fixing the worst action, you have to do so
more. Get what you need misalignments in the first step-by-step, starting with
upfront for agreed-upon three months. Misalignment the strategy, then moving to
goals. If the boss wants 10 is such an insidious problem the supporting structure,
percent growth, figure out that fixing it could even take systems, and skills and figur-
what it will take to get it and you to the break-even point. ing out how you will adapt
ask for all of the resources each to fit the strategy. Then
you'll need to do the job. To move toward alignment, chart a path for shifting the
Always link resources to start with your business strategy if necessary.
clearly defined results. strategy. Ask how your team
is positioned with respect to While looking at the strategy,
The last conversation will be the larger organizational ask which customers you
about your personal develop- goals. Make sure the strate- want to serve, which markets
ment. Are there new skills gy is well thought out and you'll exit, and which new
you need to develop in order logically integrated. ones you'll enter. Develop a
to advance? Are there spe- time-line.
cial projects that could help Next, examine whether your
build those skills? Ask your group's structure, systems, Ask which of your businesses
boss for feedback on develop- and skills can support the need more investment and
ing your skills. The higher changes in strategy that you which can provide capital.
you rise, the more you must envision. If they can't do the Will even more additional
shift away from technical job, alter the strategy and capital be required? Where
skills and toward the "soft" build the capabilities that will you get it?
skills, such as cultural and are needed.
political diagnosis. Ask what your organizational
Next, chart a path for shifting capabilities are, and what
new ones you need to devel- your existing team before sooner or later.
op. Will you need to create making changes, consider Prioritize these people
or acquire others? the person’s competence, for termination.
judgment, energy, focus,
And last, assess what critical relationships, and trust as Once you have planned
resource commitments you'll the key elements. your team restructuring, you
have to make. Use the can begin to adjust goals,
SWOT method, analyzing Once you have assessed each incentives, and measures of
strengths, weaknesses, member of the team, look at performance to fit the team
opportunities, and threats. the team as a whole. First and the strategy. You'll
study the data. Read reports establish new team processes
With a thorough understand- and team meeting minutes. and decide who participates,
ing of strategy, including its Then systematically ask who makes decisions, and
history and how that strate- questions about the chal- who leads.
gy has been implemented so lenges and opportunities the
far, you can intelligently team faces. If the responses Make sure to explain
start shaping your group's are overly consistent, it may the processes to the team
structure to fit it. Look at suggest that there’s an members so that everyone
how the units are structured, agreed-upon party line. If understands what should
how people work together, there is too little consistency, happen and why. You will
who has power to make deci- the team may not be coherent. know that you have been
sions, how performance is successful in building your
measured and rewarded, and Look at the group dynamics. team when you reach the
what the reporting relation- Are there obvious alliances break-even point, and the
ships are. In each case, ask: or animosities? Who's the energy the team creates is
Is this the best way to do leader? Do you see signs of greater than the energy you
things? team frustration? Pick up on need to put into it. At that
subtle cues, such as body point, you will be ready to
You can't realign a company language. take the next step: building
— or even your group — in coalitions.
the first 90 days. But you Once you have finished your
can gain a deep understand- assessment, you are ready ss
ing of what's needed and to begin restructuring your
make a plan. Having a plan team. Assign each member 8. CREATING COALITIONS
will allow you to move for- to one of the following
ward into the next step: categories: Your success inevitably will
building your team. depend on people who are
• Keep in place. This is out of your direct line of
ss someone you'll definitely authority. When this hap-
retain. pens, it is important for you
7. BUILD YOUR TEAM to have a network of people
• Keep and develop. to support your ideas and
The most important decision This is someone you'll goals. You can't wait until
you will make in your first help move to the next you need it. You have to
90 days will probably involve level. start creating coalitions early
selecting the members of on.
your team. A high-perfor- • Move to another posi-
mance team can give you tion. This person may One common mistake people
tremendous leverage. work out, but not in this make in transition is to pay
job. too much attention to those
Your team analysis will come above and below them and
into play here as you decide • Observe for a while. not enough attention to those
who to keep, who to let go, This is a wait-and-see on the sides — peers and
who to hire, and who to situation. external constituencies.
• Replace. This person You'll need to figure out who
In assessing each member of will leave the team you must influence, who is
BUSINESS BOOK SUMMARIES 9
likely to support you, who owes favors to somebody else. comparison with the competi-
will oppose you, and those tion, and you know it's going
who remain undecided but Once you have done this, to look bad, you will have put
perhaps convincible. draw an influence map (as them in a position where
illustrated below) to depict they can no longer deny that
First you need to identify the the flow of influence among change is necessary.
key players. Who will be various forces. Then you will
important to your success? be in a position to say who ss
Start by identifying the will support you, who will
critical interfaces between oppose you, and who remains 9. KEEP YOUR BALANCE
your group and others. convincible.
Customers and suppliers are The life of a leader is always
natural places to start. Take For example, you may be a balancing act, but never
the time to get your boss to able to convert some oppo- more so than during transi-
connect you with key outside nents by calming their fears tion. If you moved from one
people. Set up meetings with of change, but you do not city to another, you're in a
them. want to waste too much time personal transition. If you
trying to convert people who have a family, they're in
Diagnose informal networks of will remain against you. transition, too. With all that
influence. Every organization turmoil, you're still expected
has a "shadow organization" The best way to spend your to get adjusted quickly to
inside of it, consisting of time is on the undecided. your new job and start per-
working relationships that Their motivations may be for forming. There are seven
aren't spelled out in the offi- status, for financial reasons, traps into which new leaders
cial organizational chart. for job security, or some other can fall in this area. Let's
This is how a lot of the real reason. But you'll need to examine them.
work gets done. figure out what stands in the
way of them supporting you, • The first trap is riding
You need to get inside that and then work to overcome off in all directions.
shadow organization. Try it. There is an infinite num-
to map alliances and discover ber of tasks to choose
who really holds power. One way to convince people from, but only a few are
You can do this by watching is to bring them along in a vital. You can easily
carefully in meetings to see series of small steps toward reach mental lock-up,
who defers to whom on cru- your goal. The more irre- where you simply go
cial issues. Also notice who versible the steps are, the from task to task, getting
people go to for advice, who better. For example, if you nothing done.
shares information, who get people to collect data
marshals resources, and who on how you're doing in • Trap number two is
AN INFLUENCE MAP aries. Establish clear
boundaries early on con-
cerning what you will
and won't do. If you
don’t, no one else will do
it for you.
• The third trap is brittle-
ness. It's easy to get
defensive in transition,
and that leads to rigidity
and a need for control. If
you stick with a bad deci-
sion out of defensiveness,
you can doom your
• Trap number four is iso- you might miss. Use a mix or sustaining success.
lation. It is surprisingly of internal and external
easy for a new leader to people with strengths in • Their agenda for techni-
end up isolated. technical, cultural, and cal, cultural, and political
Overwhelmed, you may political issues. learning, and the key ele-
not take time to connect ments of their learning
with people. Encourage Success depends heavily on plan.
people to share informa- your ability to keep your bal-
tion, including bad news, ance during transition and • Their progress in engag-
with you. beyond. Your day-to-day ing their new boss in
actions during this period set the five key conversa-
• Trap number five is the stage for all that follows. tions about the business
biased judgment. You With the strategies already situation, expectations,
can lose perspective laid out, the balancing act communication style,
because of ego, because will be well within your resources, and personal
of a tendency to focus on grasp. development.
only information that
confirms your views, or ss • Their A-item priorities,
because of overconfi- goals for behavior
dence. In each case, 10. EXPEDITE EVERYONE change, and ideas about
it can keep you from where they can secure
making sound decisions. You have now gone through early wins.
the main steps involved in
• The sixth trap is work accelerating transition for • Their priorities for
avoidance. To avoid a stunning success in the first strengthening their
tough decision, it’s easy 90 days on a new job. The advice-and-counsel
to focus on other work to last, and perhaps most network.
avoid it. You can be important, step is to bring
incredibly busy — and this process to the organiza- A common vocabulary
failing every day. tion. Imagine the benefit to ensures that these important
the bottom line if everyone conversations not only can
• Trap number seven is could transition faster. but will take place. Bringing
driving yourself to the this kind of change to an
point of diminishing Most companies pay no organization is a challenge,
returns. All of those attention at all to transitions but one worth undertaking.
traps can generate and many even put barriers Start locally and expand.
dangerous levels of in the way of people who Your own team members are
stress. When stress step into new jobs. In some the first obvious choices.
gets too high, you work organizations, it's a sink or
harder and achieve less, swim culture, where senior When you hire people, for
leading to exhaustion or managers view this as a way example, see how quickly you
burn-out. to winnow talent. can get them to the break-
even point. Teach them
The key to avoiding these The first step in introducing about the 90-day plan and
seven traps is to be aware of the transition acceleration help them develop it.
yourself. You need discipline framework to your organiza- Encourage the five-conversa-
and energy, but you also tion is to introduce a new tion framework for building a
need self-reflection to keep vocabulary to make it possi- relationship with you. Have
tabs on how you're doing. ble to talk about it. People them diagnose the business
Building an advice-and-coun- need to be able to approach situation and discuss it with
sel network is an important their bosses, peers, and you.
step in doing this. direct reports and discuss the
following: Merge this with the expecta-
That group can give you tions conversation. Work
invaluable support, as well • The type of transition with them to create a learn-
as feedback on how you're they're entering: start-up, ing agenda and plan. Help
holding up and clues that turnaround, realignment, them identify people who can
BUSINESS BOOK SUMMARIES 11
support them. Tell them to These same approaches can sluggish or failed transitions.
create an A-item list, and be used effectively in devel- When the author surveyed
push them toward some oping high-potential leaders, company presidents and
early wins. Then, when they in succession planning, and CEOs, he discovered that the
have reached break-even, get in accelerating post-merger average number of people
them to use the transition integration. When organiza- whose performance was sig-
acceleration framework on tions merge, they invariably nificantly compromised by
others. bring two different languages the arrival of a new mid-level
to the new organization, and manager is 12.4 people.
You can also use this frame- that can spell disaster. The With one-fourth of your com-
work for accelerating your STARS Model gets everyone pany’s managers in transi-
team building efforts. This is to use the same terms from tion at any one time, it is
especially powerful if your the start and can smooth the easy to see why companies
team mixes people who have way to successful transition. are less productive than they
been around for a while with could be. The STARS Model
new people. Introduce the Remember, the ultimate goal can accelerate the transitions
team to the STARS Model behind transition accelera- of all of those people and
and push them to clarify key tion is to reap big returns keep the machinery of busi-
challenges and opportunities that ultimately fall to the ness running smoothly in
they'll face as a team. Focus bottom line. A quick back-of- this fast-paced world.
on how the team will define the-envelope estimate of how
its A-item priorities and many people are in transition
secure early wins. Explore at any given time — and how ss
the kind of coalitions you'll many other people they in
build to marshal the support turn impact — could show you
you'll need. the whopping annual cost of
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Watkins is an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, where
he studies leadership and negotiation.
He is the author of several books, including Breakthrough Business
Negotiation: A Toolbox for Managers and the coauthor of Breakthrough
International Negotiation: How Great Negotiators Transformed the World’s
Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts, Winning the Influence Game, and Right
from the Start.
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The First 90 Days, summarized by arrangement with Harvard Business School Press, from The First 90
Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins. Copyright 2003
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