Customer Reviews: You're in Charge, Now What?: The 8 Point Plan
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on January 21, 2005
"Writing a book is not that hard. You take the first 11 books on the subject and then you write the 12th". The Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said this already 150 years ago. And it's apparently still true.

Only in this case, the authors seem to have gotten their inspiration from one key source ... and that is Harvard professor Michael Watkins, who published "THE FIRST 90 DAYS - CRITICAL SUCCESS STRATEGIES FOR NEW LEADERS AT ALL LEVELS" in 2003. In that book, Watkins outlines 10 strategies for all leaders about to take up a new leadership position. By the way, Watkins' book is well written without any academic flavour.

What is Neff and Citrin's 8 POINT PLAN? The fundamental idea is: Get set to learn, listen well, set proper expectations, read the culture, build trust, lead by example, set the appropriate direction, and communicate effectively. These ideas are transformed to become the 8 steps for building your foundation towards great performance as a new manager:
1. Prepare Yourself During the Countdown
2. Align Expectations
3. Shape Your Management Team
4. Craft Your Strategic Agenda
5. Start Transforming Culture
6. Manage Your Board/Boss
7. Communicate
8. Avoid Common Pitfalls

If you read my online review of "The First 90 Days", you'll see that both books focus on exactly the same issues. But Neff and Citrin generously allow 100 days for new managers. Just like Machiavelli suggested for politicians...

I've read this book because I'm very interested in being better at taken on a new leadership position (a situation that I've tried five times in 15 years). Since I enjoyed "First 90 Days" a lot, I thought this book would add further to my knowledge on the subject. Unfortunately, it didn't. However, I do appreciate the concise 10 guidelines for each of the eight steps. And the appendices also offer practical advice. These contributions earned the two stars rating.

By the way, to complete the "cut-and-paste" issue, please take a look at Gerald M. Czarnecki's book from 2003: "You're in charge ... what now? - Seven essential steps for work leader success". Same title. Same topic. Only different authors...

Being a reader, I obviously do not care much about who owns the intellectual rights to the ideas. It's just that I do not like to buy a new book on a favourite topic just to learn that I've read all the ideas before in another book on the subject. At least, I would expect an online reviewer to tell me. Well, that's why I wrote this piece...

Peter Leerskov,
MSc in International Business (Marketing & Management) and Graduate Diploma in E-business
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I bought two books on the first 100 days--this one and "The First 90 Days" by Michael Watkins. I found this book the most useful, and it quickly and immediately inspired me to prepare a succinct 100 day plan broken down into 10 day blocks, for a new $2 billion a year agency. Hence, I completely disagree with those that trash this book and recommend "The First 90 Days" instead of this book. I do find both books useful--read this one first, then cherry pick from Watkins.

Sure, anyone can cook a meal with the same ingredients, and sure, there are a number of books on this topic. For me, this book has exactly the right combination of white space, font size, lay-out, progressive structure, and inspiring snippets (including the all-important advocacy for having an in-house revolutionary).

I recommend this book be read in conjunction with Robert Buckman's "Creating a Knowledge-Driven Organization," Margaret Wheatley's "Leadership and the New Science" (which Buckman told me inspired his own work), and Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Solution" (or you can just read my short summative reviews of those three books).
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HALL OF FAMEon February 28, 2005
Why would two headhunters want to write a book about best practices starting their jobs among new CEOs? Based on reading this book, I can only conclude that they wanted to show off the CEOs they had recruited for client companies in order to garner more business from those companies and to obtain CEO search assignments from new clients.

Having read many books on this subject, I can only assure you that this one adds nothing to the literature beyond some new cases. On the other hand, this book is no worse than any other book on the subject.

Those who will be most disappointed are readers who wanted to learn something new who have read other books on this subject. The next most disappointed group will be those who are taking on leadership jobs that will not involve heading companies or divisions. Those readers will find little specific information aimed at those needs.

With a natural market of 150 U.S. CEOs a year, why does a book like this sell many more copies? It's really a book that appeals to those who hope to be CEOs of large public companies someday, which will mostly be MBAs who are fairly young. Such readers can dream about how they would handle these same situations. While that can be fun, the time would be better spent on developing a new skill for your current and next job.

As I have noted before, best practices can be misleading. Best practices can suggest that there is no better route available.

That thought led me to think about what's missing from a book like this. Here are a few of the many examples I could list:

1. A description of what on-going measurements to put in place in order to understand where the company is today, how it needs to change and what its most realistic opportunities are.

2. A process for creating a premium-priced stock price based on a realistic understanding by investors of the company's situation and where it is going in the future.

3. A way of monitoring how well the CEO is performing in terms of each of the 8 points in the plan described in the book.

4. What to do differently after the first 100 days.

Now, if those areas seem fundamental to you, they are. Why are they missing? I have to assume that the authors lack the expertise to work on those areas. They are, after all, just headhunters.

If you are still interested in the book, what do the authors tell you to do?

1. Prepare before you start the job.

2. Encourage low expectations of what you will accomplish.

3. Pick and brief your management team.

4. Determine your strategic focus.

5. Improve the corporate culture.

6. Develop your relationship with the board.

7. Communicate what you are doing.

8. Avoid making common mistakes.

Did you really need to read a book to figure that out? If so, I'm not sure you are ready to be a CEO.

I would like to comment that when I coach new CEOs of major companies I find that NO ONE takes point 6 seriously enough. So if you do read the book, pay particular attention to that point.

Good luck!
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VINE VOICEon December 31, 2005
I bought "The First 90 days" by Michael Watkins and this book. I found this 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 the book is written for senior business management and less applicable for lower levels of management or line positions.
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on January 9, 2007
If you are a brand new CEO and need to know how to run your organization, buy this book. If you are at any lower level, this book is not meant for you.

The authors state directly from the beginning that they focus more on CEOs than most other positions but the lessons learned are applicable to anyone. This is not true. The author focus too much on the role of a CEO. The examples and suggestions are unique to that role. In one section the book describes how to find your management blind spots such as research and development, marketing, etc. If you are a software development manager in a large firm, your knowledge of marketing or R&D will most likely do little for your career. Yet this book highlights that as areas you should improve.

Another example on how the book focuses too much on CEO is displayed in the how-to-work-with-your-boss chapter. They entire chapter discusses how you should interact with the board of directors! This is a complely different relationship than what 99.9% of workers engage in. The relationship you have with your boss is possibly the most important relationship in your career. To focus this chapter on working with the board makes it absolutely useless to anyone who is not an officer or anyone that does not work for a private firm.
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on March 16, 2005
It is important to also look beyond the 8 points of this book to its overall meta messages:

*Today, the CEO on-board process is a relative manageable and predictable process

*During this process a variety of individuals have specific roles and objectives to ensure the CEO's success

*There are specific, transferable skills and experiences to get in preparation for the CEO job

*More Boards then ever are flexing their newly acquired, legislative muscles. This has resulted in a tremendous amount of CEOs firings. A more cost effective solution would be for Boards to prevent these firings by providing the CEO adequate pre- and on-boarding support.

It is correct that, in their most summarized form, these eight points have been written about in literature since centuries. Yet, messages such as these are worth repeating two hundred fifty million times (that is approximately how much it has cost to replace seven top CEO in the last three months) as long as this keeps occurring:

*New CEOs make unnecessary mistakes

*Boards fire CEOs they only hired a year ago for mistakes which could have been prevented with adequate guidance and counsel

*Boards react ("Well, we needed to fire him/her because of mistakes") instead of plan and execute pre-emptive solutions
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on September 2, 2014
If you're about to become a CEO or President of a large company, mayve give this book a quick read.

Anyone else, I'd pass on your time and just read all the great articles on LinkedIn or do a Google search.

The book is written in a way that its only helpful to those at the top - I am a Vice President of a division within a company, so I am "in charge" of some but this book is not for those types - it's for those that will be enduring big changes in their lives; so I would argue, if you're in that position, I am guessing you've already prepared yourself and won't ask 'Now What?'

Its full of stories of top executives, if you're heading into a top position to equal them, then, again, you should have already prepared yourself without having read this book. Its a sexy title but does not apply to most folks outside of the C Suite.
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on January 11, 2014
Too many times managers get in charge of an organization and make all the wrong moves, turn off potential allies, and slow the pace of improvement in the organization. This is a plain talk, with real world examples, book that new Managers should read! I have also read the First 90 Days and others. The thing I like about this text is the talk is not college snobby and broken into intelligent sections. I usually buy this and give it to new peer managers in my organization. I lent out my personal hard copy and he like it so much, he would not give it back!
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on August 27, 2013
There are many books out there for planning the first 100 days of your new job. This is one more of them, but is well written, fact based, with good input from visible and known leaders in the different industries.
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on June 16, 2007
When I saw the "Recommended for You" email, I thought Gerald Czarnecki had come out with a sequel. Instead, I find a not as elegant knock-off.

Czarnecki offers a much better, more digestible plan for those who are newly appointed in positions of management. His "Seven Essential Steps for Work Leader Success" are useful and proven techniques for those who need it the most: the everyday people in an organization who get the job done, not the Stanford-grad CEOs who have already spent years in management and academia learning the ropes. I have recommended his book to friends in just about every industry, from IT to the military. I, myself, found Czarnecki's book extremely useful as a new senior non-commissioned officer in dealing with people who became my subordinates overnight. Unfortunately, this book did not address that sort of issue.

This book isn't a terrible book by any means, and perhaps for a CEO or high-level manager it is something good. As I am neither, I didn't find it appealing. It's essentially the same information you can find elsewhere, and as a previous reviewer pointed out, the tips and techniques are more for those already in the boardroom. Go back to Czarnecki's original if you are a new manager, especially one who was promoted from within, or looking for a gift for the grad or newly promoted.
You're In Charge...What Now?
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