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432 of 462 people found the following review helpful
This book is not just for managers at the executive level. It's also for you and me. It's for functional managers, project managers, and supervisors. The book targets new leaders at all levels that are making the transition from one rung of the ladder to the next.

If you have just been promoted to a new leadership position (or expect to be soon), then this book is for you.

The book outlines ten strategies that will shorten the time it takes you to reach what Watkins calls the breakeven point: the point at which your organization needs you as much as you need the job. Here they are ... the ten strategies:

1. PROMOTE YOURSELF. Make a mental break from your old job. Prepare to take charge in the new one. Don't assume that what has made you successful so far will continue to do so. The dangers of sticking with what you know, working hard at doing it, and failing miserably are very real.

2. ACCELERATE YOUR LEARNING. Climb the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. Understand markets, products, technologies, systems, and structures, as well as its culture and politics. It feels like drinking from a fire hose. So you have to be systematic and focused about deciding what you need to learn.

3. MATCH STRATEGY TO SITUATION. There are no universal rules for success in transitions. You need to diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities. The author identifies four very different situations: launching a start-up, leading a turnaround, devising a realignment, and sustaining a high-performing unit. You need to know what your unique situation looks like before you develop your action plan.

4. SECURE EARLY WINS. Early victories build your credibility and create momentum. They create virtuous cycles that leverage organizational energy. In the first few weeks, you need to identify opportunities to build personal credibility. In the first 90 days, you need to identify ways to create value and improve business results.

5. NEGOTIATE SUCCESS. You need to figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage his or her expectations. No other relationship is more important. This means having a series of critical talks about the situation, expectations, style, resources, and your personal development. Crucially, it means developing and gaining consensus on your 90-day plan.

6. ACHIEVE ALIGNMENT. The higher you rise in an organization, the more you have to play the role of organizational architect. This means figuring out whether the organization's strategy is sound, bringing its structure into alignment with its strategy, and developing the systems and skills bases necessary to realize strategic intent.

7. BUILD YOUR TEAM. If you are inheriting a team, you will need to evaluate its members. Perhaps you need to restructure it to better meet demands of the situation. Your willingness to make tough early personnel calls and your capacity to select the right people for the right positions are among the most important drivers of success during your transition.

8. CREATE COALITIONS. Your success will depend on your ability to influence people outside your direct line of control. Supportive alliances, both internal and external, will be necessary to achieve your goals.

9. KEEP YOUR BALANCE. The risks of losing perspective, getting isolated, and making bad calls are ever present during transitions. The right advice-and-counsel network is an indispensable resource

10. EXPEDITE EVERYONE. Finally, you need to help everyone else - direct reports, bosses, and peers - accelerate their own transitions. The quicker you can get your new direct reports up to speed, the more you will help your own performance.

This book is not only relevant on the individual level. This transition process for new managers happens so often that it should be handled with more professionalism by (big) organizations. Whereas we as managers try to work actively with introduction programmes and training for new employees, then many managers must face their transition challenge alone. It shouldn't be like that. The "sink or swim" approach should be doomed.

Peter Leerskov,
M.Sc. in International Business (Marketing & Management) and Graduate Diploma in E-business
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165 of 180 people found the following review helpful
This is a fine book with a lot of substance, and I place it slightly second to Thomas Neff and James Citrin's "You're in Charge--NOW WHAT?."

From my point of view as the reader, Neff & Citrin actually catalyzed me and inspired me into preparing a 100 day plan broken into 10 ten-day blocks, while Watkins is more of a manual with lots of useful checklists and suggested questions and so on, but between the two, Neff & Citrin actually drove me to the needed outcome: my own 100 day plan.

Both are good. If you buy only one, buy Neff & Citrin, but I do recommend that you buy both, read Neff & Citrin first, and then cherry pick from Watkins--the cost of these books is trivial in comparison to the return on investment.
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151 of 168 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 31, 2005
I bought "The First 90 days" by Michael Watkins and Neff/Citrin's book titled "You're in Charge - Now What." I found Neff's book to be a stronger and more practical guide. Both offered excellent guidance however Neff & Citrin produced a more interesting and readable (less text-book like) book with real life examples and a road map. Word of warning in that both books are written for senior business management and less applicable for lower levels of management or line positions.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2003
I am the CEO of a successful holding company involved in diversification. I was drawn to this book because I was looking for a roadmap for leaders to jump start their success. This wonderful book provides the necessary critical strategies. I recommend that leaders on all levels read this book and another, Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self to understand the shortcomings of suboptimal thinking in corporate culture and to create a team of optimizers who optimize every situation. Five stars for each of these books!
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2012
This book is a great and practical guide to help any leader transition into a new job, position, and organization--within 90 days (a critical timeframe to be considered as "hitting the ground running"). There's a checklist at the end of every chapter to help you absorb key lessons, apply them to your situation, and tailor them to your own transition plan. The book is loaded with practical strategies, lessons, and advice for a smooth transition.

The First 90 Days - Chapter Summaries:

INTRODUCTION: THE FIRST 90 DAYS

- The actions you take in your first three months in a new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail.

1. Promote Yourself: Make the mental break from your old job and prepare to take charge in the new one. The biggest pitfall you face is to assume that what has made you successful to this point in your career will continue to do so.

2. Accelerate Your Learning: Accelerate the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. Understand its markets, products, technologies, systems, structures, and culture, and politics.

3. Match Strategy to Situation: Diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities.

4. Secure Early Wins: Early wins build your credibility and create momentum.

5. Negotiate Success: Figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage his/her expectations. Plan for a series of critical conversations. Develop and gain consensus on your 90-day plan.

6. Achieve Alignment: Figure out whether the organization's strategy is sound. Bring its structure into alignment with its strategy.

7. Build Your Team: If you are inheriting a team, evaluate its members and restructure it to better meet the demands of the situation. Make tough early personnel calls.

8. Create Coalitions: Influence people outside your direct line of control. Rely on supportive alliances, internal and external, to achieve your goals.

9. Keep Your Balance: Work hard to maintain your equilibrium and preserve your ability to make good judgments.

11. Expedite Everyone: Help everyone in your organization accelerate their own transitions.

CONCLUSION: BEYOND SINK OR SWIM
- The biggest danger you face is belief in a one-size-fits-all rule for success.

All in all, The First 90 Days is now one of my absolute favorites, right up there with the other leadership must read Leadership 2.0
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2007
It is all to easy in a new job to launch in with what we think are clear mandates, work with vigor and enthusiasm to turn them into plans that we think will benefit the company and the people who work for us only to realize that the glittering darkness at the end of our launch silo is not a starry night sky but a wall embedded with wreckage to which we will shortly add. "The First 90 Days..." explains the challenges that we can encounter, which are most likely for each of four types of situations, and what we can do to keep them from becoming bricks in that wall.

I won't make another job move without re-reading this book and analyzing the new situation as it suggests. It provides a good framework for understanding the type of situations one can move into. It has checklists of things to focus on and questions to ask by situation type and time frame starting before the first day and on through the first 90 days. I particularly liked the "Conversations to have with your new boss". Not only does Watkins describe the things that we as newcomers and our bosses need to have a clear understanding of but he provides a framework of several conversations and how and when to initiate them in order to facilitate the understanding. I highly recommend it for any position change.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2005
The premise and content of this book is what to do in the critical first 90 days in a new assignment or a new position. While the book covers a wide variety of concepts, there are few which go into great detail. However, those that are covered are done so in manner that still is a valuable read for anyone changing jobs or roles.

In my opinion one of the richest subjects to address, is also the one covered in the least detail here - culture. One of the most challenging and difficult issues to understand and respond to are the unstated, yet very powerful, forces at work which enable or hinder a new employee's organizational success. Any manager in a new role needs to quickly understand the do's and don'ts so they can be more effective. I wish the book had gone into far more detail on this subject.

That said, the sections on how to ask the right questions, assess your new team, and negotiate success with your boss are all great. The author depicts a STaRS model for determining the situation a new leader may face. The four types of business situations are "Sustaining Success", "Turnaround", "Realignment" and "Start-Up". The book goes into each situation and the different approaches required in each setting. (Page 63)

I found the section on "Build Your Team" to be quite insightful. Several tips are included that will be very useful for anyone in the position of assessing their new team. In particular are several questions that can be asked, and some great insights into non-verbal behaviors and other clues that will provide much needed information to lead and coach through the transition. (Page 167).

I recommend this book for anyone looking to put together a quick on-boarding program for new managers, or who is going through a transition themselves. Many good ideas and a great overview of the areas a new leader needs to be aware of to make a successful transition.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2004
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. Reading this book, I realized I had walked into a problem where management saw the company was in need of a turnaround, but the employees had no idea and saw their company as a steady success story.
Every bit of this book is gold. From how to approach change implementation based on situation, to managing upwards, to making the mental switch to your new position, it's all been helpful.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2004
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2006
If you are not planning to stay all your life in your current employer or want to re-energize your career, this book is for you.

By far the best book I have ever read.. and I have read quite a lot. It is a very hands on plan covering all the important aspects of a successful transition and the foundations for a sucessful career in the organization.

I recommend specially chapters 5 and 6 that cover alignment and expectations.

The great value of the book is that it comprises all the experience accumulated by numerous managers and strategies that have allowed many of them to climb the organization in a very solid way within a strategic frame. It provides answers to many questions that every manager has and has to go through a coach or many books to find suitable answers.
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