The Next First 90 Days

The next first 90 daysAccomplishing one thing begs for planning of another.  Best way to plan, especially when exploring new areas, is to identify short term goals. Short terms goals help in becoming smart faster and improve the chance long term goals correctly set.

In the book The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins the author offers practical advice how to get started and plan for the first 90 days on a new job. It also applicable for current jobs when starting new project or starting new fiscal year.

Adapt To The Situation

Watkins writes:

“Transition failures happen when new leaders either misunderstand the essential demands of the situation or lack the skill and flexibility to adapt to them”

They say What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. It’s always about adapting to a new situation. Failure to adapt will keep you behind. Ability to quickly assess the situation and adjust will help you. To keep up with ever changing situation consider asking yourself these questions:

  • Who’s the customer and their advocates? – this helps modeling forward. Reduces the risk of reacting anxiously and increasing the chance of responding thoughtfully.
  • Who’s the stakeholder[s]? – this helps aligning with superiors and influencers which smoothens execution.
  • What’s valued? – this helps producing deliverables that’s easy to articulate the investments for them.
  • What’s commodity? – this helps to keep out of what’s not valued reducing the risk becoming a dumping ground, and then potentially replaced by lower cost workforce.
  • Who are the folks in the know and where do they hang out? – this helps network better and become smart faster.

Connect With Frontline People

Watkins writes:

“Start by asking frontline people how they view the company’s challenges and opportunities”

Frontline people work directly with the customers and they see first hand what challenges either real or perceived are there. Front people serve as customers advocate, they understand both agendas – the customer’s and the company’s – and they see the gap between the two, in most cases they could suggest how to bridge it. The easiest way to connect with frontline people is figuring out where they hang out – both in person and online. It helps collecting key pain points quickly and what’s valued or would be valued if existed. It also helps identifying authorities within the community of the frontline folks. Working with frontline people helps scaling when identifying customer’s problems. Working with community leaders help scaling even further.

Secure Early Wins

Watkins writes:

‘”What constitutes an early win will differ dramatically from one business situation to another… Think tactically about what will build momentum best. Will it be a demonstrated willingness to listen and learn? Will it be rapid, decisive calls on pressing business issues?”

Simply put, early win is something you can reference to either tangible or not. It doesn’t have to be complete solution of a problem yet it must be significant step toward it. Here are couple of examples:

  • Vision statement created and adopted by key stakeholders
  • Walking deck created
  • Influencers map created
  • Three top pain points identified and path to solution agreed
  • Pilot conducted and analysis/insights shared with the team
  • Work is scoped and risks identified

Manage Your Manager

Watkins writes:

“Assume that the job of building a positive relationship with your new boss is 100 percent your responsibility.”

It helps massively If your manager doesn’t need to work hard to manage you. It all depends on the situation and your manager’s style. One way is to center it around you and it is routinely setting an agenda for your recurrent one on one meetings with three simple parts: good, bad, asks. Example:


    • Project X on schedule/budget
    • Agreement achieved on X with Y
    • Phase I delivered
    • Customer feedback collected


  • Partner X is irresponsive, introduces risk of delaying project Y
  • We are short on resources for identified scope, won’t hit deadline.
  • Network is down for long time keeping us idle for more than anticipated


  • Extending deadline
  • Allocate another resource for Project X
  • Reduce scope of work that was originally identified
  • Assign me on project X
  • Resign from project Y

Another approach is centered around the manager and that’s keep asking a simple question – what’re the three things on top of your mind?


Draw A Map

Watkins writes:

“Draw an Influence Map…Identify Supporters, Opponents, and Convincibles”

The First 90 DaysWhen you drive project forward you want to streamline its execution. Technical issues are rarely a real blocker. People are. That’s why it’s important to know who your supporters and opponents are. It’s also important to identify why they support or oppose you so you have a strategy in place when it comes to converting opponents and convincibles into supporters.



Image by Nupur Dasgupta

About the Author:

This blog is dedicated to share simple practices I that get me results.

5 Comments on "The Next First 90 Days"

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  1. Shilpan says:

    Nice tips Alik. I just changed department within the same bank, so these tips are handy. I like the idea of managing the manger. It’s important to give you 200% focus for the first six months. Once you win your manager’s heart, it’s lot easier to sail through.

  2. Superb summary. I recently transitioned to a new role & this book was invaluable. I highly recommend it to anyone starting a new job or role. Thanks for the excellent insights, Alik.

  3. Alik Levin says:

    Thank you.Glad you liked the the post. I observed most managers appreciate it when you take off of their plate rather than add to it.

    Thank you, partner. Good luck with your new epic adventure!

  4. J.D. Meier says:

    Connect with front-line people is sharp. It’s one of the best ways to know what’s really going on … and to identify the key challenges and opportunities.

    The best leaders I know beat the streets and keep their fingers on the pulse.

  5. Alik Levin says:

    Beat the street – nicely put, adopted.

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