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

Michael Watkins
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 1 2003
The international bestseller and globally acknowledged bible on leadership and career transitions

Fully a quarter of all managers in major corporations enter new leadership roles each year. Whether their assignments involve starting a new job, being promoted internally, or embarking on an international assignment, how new leaders manage their transitions can mean the difference between success and failure.

In The First 90 Days, Michael D. Watkins, a noted expert on leadership transitions, offers proven strategies for moving successfully into a new role at any point in one's career. Concise and practical, The First 90 Days walks managers through every aspect of the transition, from mental preparation to forging the right alliances to securing critical early wins. Through vivid examples of successes and failures at all levels, Michael Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter and provides tools and strategies for how to avoid them.

As hundreds of thousands of readers already know, The First 90 Days is your roadmap for taking charge quickly and effectively during critical career transition periods—whether you’re a first-time manager, a midcareer professional on your way up, or a newly minted CEO.

Published by Harvard Business Review Press.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This earnest guide to career transition periods-when a new job or promotion puts an employee in an unfamiliar role-asserts, reassuringly, that navigating the all-important first 90 days is a "teachable skill." Business professor Watkins, co-author of Right From the Start: Taking Charge in a New Leadership Role, lays out a "standard framework" for leadership transitions, based on "five fundamental propositions," "ten key challenges," and a four-fold typology of situations that new managers find themselves in. Fortunately, Watkins balances the theorizing with practical steps managers can take to get on top of things and initiate changes, including elaborate self-assessment checklists, planning exercises and meticulous guidelines on how to have conversations with underlings and bosses. His advice, if not very original, is sound. He warns managers not to assume that their existing skills will suffice for new roles, advises them to pursue small-scale "early wins" to boost credibility, and admonishes workplace Machiavellis to "avoid pressing for closure until you are confident the balance of forces acting on key people is tipping your way." Watkins's penchant for cut-and-dried schematizations sometimes goes overboard, especially in the book's plethora of elementary graphs, tables, diagrams and matrices (novice orators are informed that "classic values invoked to convince others to embrace potentially painful change are summarized in table 8-1," while the oceanic topic of "Intersecting Cultural Dimensions" gets boiled down to a three-ring Venn diagram). But if the content of Watkins's counsel is not always obviously helpful, his systematized approach to thinking will at least help panicky executives keep their wits about them.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In these days of the public's microscopic scrutiny of corporate C-level executives, it's a wonder anyone would aspire to the CEO position. Amazingly enough, many eager managers are still climbing--and Harvard Business School professor and author (Right from the Start [1999]) Watkins helps prepare them for career moves, accelerating their transitions. This is, essentially, practical advice about undertaking new opportunities and understanding new vulnerabilities, quickly and without much upheaval. Different steps--sometimes simultaneously, sometimes sequential-- define success in the first three months, from promoting yourself (i.e., taking charge fast) to keeping your balance. Anecdotes enliven the checklists and sample learning plans; in fact, one specific case--Douglas Ivester of Coca-Cola--underscores the absolute necessity to adapt and change rapidly in new positions. Much content is human resources related, based on self-discipline, team building, and the availability of trusted advice and counsel. Would that every newly elected president of the U.S. heeded this practice. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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THE PRESIDENT of the United States gets 100 days to prove himself; you get 90. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His earlier stuff is good too March 3 2004
By A Customer
I work for a leading health care company and went through one of Watkins's transition forum programs here. If really helped me get off to a running start. We also got his negotiation book, Breakthrough Business Negotiation, which also was very helpful. I've since also read his book on influencing government and business strategy, Winning the Influence Game. Definitely helpful if you are dealing with issues of regulation and reimbursement as we are. It's nice to see him getting recognition for the First 90 days, but his earlier stuff is just as good, if negotiation or influence are important to what you do.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars early wins are the key... Nov. 9 2003
By "newok"
As someone who recently moved into my first executive role, i found this book very helpful in focusing on early wins and in developing and accelerating momentum in my new role. It forced me to balance thinking with action...Stongly recommend it for a general mgmt transition. ...tools in the book force you to take an outside-in view of your new role.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
If I could give this book no stars, I would. This book is horrible. It contains everything William Zinsser warned us about in his classic book "On Writing Well." As a new manager I was keen to learn the "how's" of doing the job well. On the outside, this book appeared to be what I needed to help me. I should have read further than the first few pages. "A-Item" action lists, imminently notable ways of expediting your acceleration through your transition, persuading your "convincibles" to "acculturate" themselves to the company's mode of operation....? Huh? (I studied English in university, by the way.) I made it to about page 175 before I collapsed from the fatigue induced by my attempts to decipher what it was Watkins was trying to tell me. Buried among the euphemisms, coined jargon, and plain bad writing, I'm sure, are some valuable lessons for new managers. But untangling the language makes this read less enjoyable and more like a chore. Save your time and money. My advice: read Marcinko. He's brash, he's crude, and he writes much better. He's what I needed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sun Tzu in plain English circa 2004. March 3 2004
By A Customer
Don't get me wrong, Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" is a classic read on accomplishing your goals as a leader. Where Sun Tsu tells you how to wage the war, Watkin's tell you how to wage and win the first and most crucial task of it. Best of all, Watkin's book is very straightforward and easy to understand. No bravado, no bull, no self-inflated ego like so many "leadership" books.
Some of his points will make you say, "Duh! Everybody should know that" but he combines those items with other insights that are useful and worthy of consideration. Are you prone to action? Great! What if the leadership role you're taking is with a team that's already successful and you need to build the case to be better? Do you know what the early win is then? What if the team is just starting to stumble but in denial? Do you know your blind spot as a leader? This book answers those questions.
The book doesn't provide a sure to fail cookie cutter plan. It provides some needed mental pokes for you to create action items, checkpoints and items to review for yourself. It'll help clarify what your real goals are stepping into a given situation, establish your plan and speed your way to self reinforcing success. Simply, it's excellent reading for anybody taking a new position at any level.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a revised and updated edition of a book I read when it was published in 2003. Although much has (and hasn't) happened in the business world since then, Michael Watkins' insights are (if anything) even more relevant and more valuable now than they were then because the actions taken by those in a new role, especially one with more challenging leadership responsibilities, will largely determine whether they succeed or fail. "When leaders derail," Watkins notes, "their problems can almost always be traced to vicious cycles that developed in the first few months on the job." Ninety percent of those whom Watkins interviewed agreed that "transitions into new roles are the most challenging times in the professional lives of leaders." They could be internal promotions, reassignments and/or relocations, or a new hire. These and other transitions are thoroughly discussed in the book.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Watkins' coverage.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for everyone starting a new job !
I definitely wish I had read this book before starting older jobs !
More than advices, the author gives you an attitude. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Woulf06
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and logical processes
I have apart from the book also seen a presentation by Michael Watkins. Absolutely wonderful and brilliantly delivered with logical progression towards tangible results.
Published 9 months ago by S. Jhangiani
4.0 out of 5 stars A survival guide.
Put all the chances on your side.
If you plan of changing job or position, this is a good guide to raise your chances of success. Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2011 by Novy
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical guide in easy to read format
I bought this book in anticipation of a new role and I found the information contained in it extremely informative and practical. Read more
Published on May 5 2011 by Paul Royce
5.0 out of 5 stars Watkins' negotiation book is great too.
I bought The First 90 Days when I was heading into a new VP Sales position. It was a huge help just like the other reviews say. Read more
Published on June 30 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Good advice, wish I'd read it sooner
I bought this book in anticpation of a move that never happened. That said, it was remarkably useful even in my current position. Read more
Published on April 8 2004 by A.K.
5.0 out of 5 stars just what I needed
I was on day 6 of a new CEO job and everything was falling apart -- I encountered serious resistance to even minor changes that obviously needed to be made. Read more
Published on March 14 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Many great ideas to think about!
There are many original great ideas presented in this book which stand alone on their own merit. But perhaps the biggest idea of the book is for companies to view a job transition... Read more
Published on March 10 2004 by Eric Kassan
4.0 out of 5 stars Not only for leaders, every position can take advantages!
Great book! You don't have to be a leader, new executive, or senior manager, you may be just a new employee joining to a new company. Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2004 by Otto Yuen
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