The First 90 Days

The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins is a must read for anyone looking to change role in their career. This means not only moving to a new company, but being promoted or even changing career. It details a set of methodologies which, if used, will ensure you succeed by contributing value as fast as possible. The book is a healthy mixture of commentary and practical tools.

Early wins … for the win

After reading the book, my main takeaway was making early wins. Intuitively, this makes sense but it was useful to see written down. When entering a new role, your boss and team will want to see results and validate their decision to hire. The main way to achieve this will be in your early wins.

So what exactly is an early win? It is something which is achievable within a reasonably short time frame and delivers value to the company. Typically, you would call this the low hanging fruit. Ideally, it will also set a foundation for achieving broader goals and help make changes to behavioural problems within a company.

effective leaders strike the right balance between doing and being

By delivering an early win, you are proving your value and building credibility. You are delivering tangible results whilst observing and collecting information for the longer term. You are essentially writing your own reputation rather than letting it be decided for you. This reputation will be necessary later on when addressing more fundamental issues such as strategy and organisational structure.

How else can I succeed?

Aside from early wins, the book delves into various aspects of starting a new role and tools to help. One common thread is that of the STARS model. This model urges you to understand the context of the new role/organisation, and apply techniques appropriate to it. These contexts are Startup, Turnaround, Accelerate, Realign and Sustain.

So for example, when Accelerating a company you would look to boost the productivity of existing people and systems. Turnaround, however, would likely result in organisational changes.

There is also a heavy focus on relationships and expectation management. I found these to be a blend of common sense and more nuanced techniques. However, some key messages I took away were:

  • Negotiate and set clear expectations with your boss upfront;
  • Bring solutions to people, not problems;
  • Identify key stakeholders and untouchables;

Of course, there are plenty more than these, all painted with deeper explanations.

Essential reading

Overall, The First 90 Days is essential reading for anyone keen on progressing their career and looking to be promoted or move company. The book, whilst laboured in some parts, is a treasure trove of advice and tools. I’m happy to have it amongst others in my armoury. Do yourself a favour and make your first early win, buying this book.