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

Firts 90 days

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

Forbes article: Seven Rules For Succeeding As A Brand-New Leader

See comments by Peter Drucker at the bottom of this page




Whether challenged with taking on a startup, turning a business around, or inheriting a high-performing unit, a new leader’s success or failure is determined within the first 90 days on the job.

In this hands-on guide, Michael Watkins, a noted expert on leadership transitions, offers proven strategies for moving successfully into a new role at any point in one’s career. “The First 90 Days” provides a framework for transition acceleration that will help leaders diagnose their situations, craft winning transition strategies, and take charge quickly.

Practical examples illustrate how to learn about new organizations, build teams, create coalitions, secure early wins, and lay the foundation for longer-term success. In addition, Watkins provides strategies for avoiding the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter, and shows how individuals can protect themselves-emotionally as well as professionally-during what is often an intense and vulnerable period.

Concise and actionable, this is the survival guide no new leader should be without.

“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.”

-Goli Darabi,
Senior Vice President,
Corporate Leadership & Succession Management,
Fidelity Investments

“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.”

-Colonel Eli Alford,
U.S. Army

“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.”

-Suzanne M. Danielle,
Director of Global Leadership Development,

“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.”

-Gordon Curtis,
Curtis Consulting

“"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.”

-Mike Kinkead,
President and CEO,
timeBLASTER Corporation,
serial entrepreneur, and Cofounder and Trustee,
Massachusetts Software Council

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

  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The First 90 Days
    • The Breakeven Point
    • Fundamental Propositions
    • Accelerating Organizations
    • Success Strategies for New Leaders
    • Plan of the Book
  • 1. Promote Yourself
    • Promoting Yourself
      • Establish a Clear Breakpoint
      • Hit the Ground Running
      • Assess Your Vulnerabilities
      • Watch Out for Your Strengths
      • Relearn How to Learn
      • Rework Your Network
      • Watch Out for People Who Want to Hold You Back
    • Overcoming the Barriers
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 2. Accelerate Your Learning
    • Overcoming Learning Disabilities
    • Managing Learning as an Investment Process
      • Defining Your Learning Agenda
        • Questions About the Past
          • Performance
          • Root Causes
          • History of Change
        • Questions About the Present
          • Vision and Strategy
          • People
          • Processes
          • Land Mines
          • Early Wins
        • Questions About the Future
          • Challenges and Opportunities
          • Barriers and Resources
          • Culture
      • Identifying the Best Sources of Insight
    • Adopting Structured Learning Methods
    • New Leader Assimilation Processes
    • Creating a Learning Plan
      • Structured Methods for Learning
      • Learning Plan Template
    • Learning About Culture
      • Organizational, Professional, and Geographic Perspectives
      • Moving into New Cultures
      • Adaptation or Alteration?
    • Closing the Loop
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 3. Match Strategy to Situation
    • Diagnosing the Business Situation
    • Understanding the History
    • Identifying Challenges and Opportunities
    • Transforming Organizational Psychology
    • Leading with the Right Skills
    • Focusing Your Energy
      • Learning Versus Doing
      • Offense Versus Defense
      • Securing Early Wins
    • Diagnosing Your Portfolio
    • Rewarding Success
    • Adopting 4-D Development
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 4. Secure Early Wins
    • Avoiding Common Traps
      • Failing to focus
      • Not taking the business situation into account
      • Not adjusting for the culture
      • Failing to get wins that matter to your boss
      • Letting your means undermine your ends
    • Making Waves (of Change)
      • Planning Your Waves
      • Matching Strategy to Situation
    • Establishing Long-Term Goals
      • Focusing on Business Priorities and Behavioral Changes
      • Defining Your A-Item Priorities
        • A-item priorities should follow naturally from core problems
        • A-item priorities should be neither too general nor too specific
        • A-item priorities should offer clear direction yet allow for flexibility while you learn more about
      • Targeting Behavioral Changes
        • TABLE 4-1 Problematic Behavior Patterns
    • Securing Early Wins
      • Building Credibility
      • Leveraging “Teachable Moments”
      • Securing Tangible Results
        • Guidelines for translating goals into specific initiatives
          • Keep your long-term goals in mind
          • Identify a few promising focal points
          • Concentrate on the most promising focal points
          • Launch pilot projects
          • Elevate change agents
          • Leverage the pilot projects to introduce new behaviors
            • Pilot Project Checklist
      • Avoiding Predictable Surprises
        • External environment
        • Customers, markets, competitors, and strategy
        • Internal capabilities
        • Organizational politics
    • Leading Change
      • Planned Change Versus Collective Learning
      • Getting Started on Behavior Change
    • Matching Strategy to Situation
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 5. Negotiate Success
    • Focusing on the Fundamentals
    • Planning for Five Conversations
    • Planning the Situation Conversation
      • Match Support to Your Situation
    • Planning the Expectations Conversation
      • Match Expectations to the Situation
      • Aim for Early Wins in Areas Important to Your Boss
      • Identify the “Untouchables”
      • Educate Your Boss
      • Under-promise and Over-deliver
      • Clarify, Clarify, Clarify
      • Working with Multiple Bosses
      • Working at a Distance
    • Planning the Style Conversation
      • Diagnose Your Boss’s Style
      • Scope Out the Dimensions of Your Box
      • Adapt to Your Boss’s Style
      • Address the Difficult Issues
    • Planning the Resources Conversation
      • Play or Change the Game?
      • Negotiate for Resources
    • Planning the Personal Development Conversation
    • Putting It All Together: Your 90-Day Plan
    • Developing Yourself as a Boss
    • The Golden Rule of Transitions
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 6. Achieve Alignment
    • Designing Organizational Architecture
    • Identifying Misalignments
    • Avoiding Some Common Traps
    • Getting Started
    • Crafting Strategy
      • Assessing Coherence
      • Assessing Adequacy
      • Assessing Implementation
    • Modifying Strategy
    • Shaping Your Group’s Structure
      • Assessing Structure
      • Grappling with the Trade-offs
    • Aligning Key Systems
      • Doing Process Analysis
      • Aligning Systems with Structure
      • Improving Core Processes
    • Developing Your Group’s Skills Base
      • Identifying Gaps and Resources
    • Understanding Your Group’s Culture
      • Initiating Cultural Change
    • Getting Aligned
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 7. Build Your Team
    • Avoiding Common Traps
      • Keeping the existing team too long
      • Not repairing the airplane
      • Not working organizational alignment and team restructuring issues in parallel
      • Not holding onto the good people
      • Undertaking team building before the core team is in place
      • Making implementation-dependent decisions too early
      • Trying to do it all yourself
    • Assessing Your Existing Team
      • Establish Your Criteria
      • Factor in the Situation
      • Assess Your People
      • Test Their Judgment
      • Evaluate Key Functional People
      • Assess the Team as a Whole
    • Restructuring Your Team
      • Consider Alternatives to Outright Termination
      • Develop Backups
      • Treat People Respectfully
    • Aligning Goals, Incentives, and Measures
      • Designing Incentive Systems
        • The Incentive Equation
      • Defining Performance Metrics
    • Establishing New Team Processes
      • Assess Your Team’s Existing Processes
      • Target Processes for Change
      • Altering Who Participates
      • Managing Decision Making
    • Jump-Starting the Team
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 8. Create Coalitions
    • Mapping the Influence Landscape
      • Identify the Key Players
      • Draw an Influence Map
      • Identify Supporters, Opponents, and Convincibles
    • Using the Tools of Persuasion
      • Shaping Perceptions of Choices
      • Framing Compelling Arguments
      • Setting Up Action-Forcing Events
      • Employing Entanglement
      • Sequencing to Build Momentum
    • Putting It All Together
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 9. Keep Your Balance
    • Taking Stock
    • Avoiding Vicious Cycles
      • 1. Riding off in all directions
      • 2. Undefended boundaries
      • 3. Brittleness
      • 4. Isolation
      • 5. Biased judgment
      • 6. Work avoidance
      • 7. Going over the top
    • The Three Pillars of Self-Efficacy
      • Pillar 1: Adopting Success Strategies
      • Pillar 2: Enforcing Personal Disciplines
        • Plan to Plan
        • Judiciously Defer Commitment
        • Set Aside Time for the Hard Work
        • Go to the Balcony
        • Focus on Process
        • Check in with Yourself
          • Guidelines for Structured Reflection
        • Recognize When to Quit
      • Pillar 3: Building Your Support Systems
        • Assert Control Locally
        • Stabilize the Home Front
          • Guidelines for smoothing your families transition
        • Build your Advice-and-Counsel Network
    • Staying on Track
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • 10. Expedite Everyone
    • Creating a Common Language
    • Working with a Team
    • Bringing in People from Outside
    • Developing High-Potential Leaders
    • Strengthening Succession Planning
    • Accelerating Postmerger Integration
    • Employing Performance-Support Tools
    • Acceleration Checklist
  • Conclusion: Beyond Sink or Swim
    • Re-examining Five Core Propositions
      • Root cause of transition failure
      • Systematic methods to lessen likelihood of failure and reaching breakeven faster
      • Building virtuous cycles
      • Leadership development
      • Big returns for organizations
  • Notes
  • Recommended Reading
  • Index

From The Boss’s Viewpoint: copied from Peter Drucker’s Management, Revised Edition and Managing the Non-Profit Organization

The rules for making good people decisions are well established, though, alas, very few of us follow them correctly. Any executive who starts out by believing that he or she is a good judge of people is going to end up making the worst decisions. To be a judge of people is not a power given to mere mortals. Those who have a batting average of almost 1.000 in such decisions start out with a very simple premise: that they are not judges of people. They start out with a commitment to a diagnostic process.

People decisions are the ultimate—perhaps the only—control of an organization. People determine the performance capacity of an organization. No organization can do better than the people it has. It can’t reasonably hope to recruit and hold much better people than anybody else, unless it is a very small organization, let’s say a string quartet. Otherwise it can only hope to attract and hold the common run of humanity.

The yield from the human resource really determines the organization’s performance. And that’s decided by the basic people decisions:
whom we hire and whom we fire;
where we place people, and
whom we promote.

The quality of these human decisions largely determines whether the organization is being run seriously, whether its mission, its values, and its objectives are real and meaningful to people rather than just public relations and rhetoric.

Properly done, the selection process starts with an assignment not merely with a job description but an assignment.

Next, the executive forces himself or herself to look at more than one person. All of us think we know who the “right” person is, as a rule. But effective non-profit executives shouldn’t decide impulsively. They should look at several people so they have a safeguard against being blinded by friendship, by prejudice, or merely by habit.

Thirdly, while reviewing candidates, the focus must always be on performance. Don’t start with personality. Don’t start with the usual silly questions such as does he get along with people, or does she have initiative? These characteristics may be meaningful in describing a personality, but they don’t tell you how people perform. The right questions are: How have these people done in their last three assignments? Have they come through?

Then, fourth, look at people’s specific strengths. What have they shown they can do in their last three assignments?

Once you come to the conclusion, yes, Mary Ann is the right person, go—the final step—to two or three people with whom she has worked. If they all say, My only regret is that Mary Ann no longer works for me, then go ahead and make the job offer. But if they say, I wouldn’t take her back, start thinking again.

Selecting a person to carry out an assignment does not end the decision process. The second stage comes ninety days later, when you call that newly appointed person in and say: Mary Ann, you have now been on this new job ninety days. Think through what you have to do to be successful, and comeback and tell me. When she returns with her report, you can finally judge whether you have selected the right person for the assignment.

And fifth, once the decision was made, Marshall made sure the appointee understood the assignment. Perhaps the best way to do this is to ask the new person to carefully think over what they have to do to be a success, and then, ninety days or so into the job, have him or her commit it to writing.

Although this is the last step in making people decisions, it may be the most important. If you fail to accept this responsibility of making sure that the appointee understands his or her new job, do not blame the new person if he or she ultimately fails. Blame yourself, for you have failed to do your duty as a manager.

Also see “experience five” in Drucker’s “My life as a knowledge worker


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




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