It’s New Year’s eve, near the end of the holiday season and the beginning of new chapters and statistically short-lived resolutions. For many it will be the start of new jobs, as the end of year provides opportunities to reflect on life directions and where they apply their attention.

A phone conversation today with someone reviewing role options reminded me about a book I found useful during one of my previous career transitions. The First 90-Days by Michael Watkins provides some good thinking frameworks for entering into a new role.

I applied the book over a decade ago, and yet I still recall some of the points made. The book is aimed at managers going into leadership roles and everything may apply to your situation, but like anything take what adds value.

Borrowing on Covey from his Seven Habits, a guiding principle is to Seek first to understand, then be understood. This is particularly important in community work to acknowledge the current state before setting about change.

Below is a paste of notes I took back in the day as a taster before you Kindle or Audible.

The main one that I go back to is assessing the state of the organisation or team as one of four types: Startup, Turn around, Realignment, or Sustaining success. Each has challenges and opportunities. Optimism and bias in the interview process usually mis-types the stage. The end goal of all situations is the same: a successful and growing business

  • Start-Up: New organisation or team, a fresh start
  • Challenges
  • building structures and systems from scratch without a clear framework or boundaries
  • welding together a cohesive high-performance team
  • making do with limited resources
  • Opportunities
  • you can do things right from the beginning
  • people are energised by the possibilities
  • there is not preexisting rigidity in people’s thinking
  • Turnaround: Changing direction, rebuilding momentum, people usually aware that change is needed.
  • Challenges
  • re energising demoralised employees and other stakeholders
  • handling time pressures and having a quick and decisive impact
  • going deep enough with painful cuts and difficult personnel choices
  • Opportunities
  • everyone recognises that change is necessary affected constituencies (such as suppliers who want the company to stay in business) may offer significant external support a little success goes a long way
  • Realignment: Often not diagnosed, the step before turn around, may think they are in sustaining success.
  • Challenges
  • dealing with deeply ingrained cultural norms that no longer contribute to high performance
  • convincing employees that change is necessary
  • restructuring the top team and refocusing the organisation
  • Opportunities
  • the organisation has significant pockets of strength
  • people want to continue to see themselves as successful
  • Sustaining Success: Consider next level, often external rather than internal threats and opportunities.
  • Challenges
  • playing good defence by avoiding decisions that cause problems
  • living in the shadow of a revered leader and dealing with the team he or she created
  • finding ways to take the business to the next level
  • Opportunities
  • a strong team may already be in place
  • people are motivated to succeed
  • foundations for continued success (such as the product pipeline) may be in place
  • Riding off in all directions
  • you can’t focus on others if you can’t focus on yourself
  • there are an infinite number of tasks you could do but only a few that are vital
  • mental lock-up
  • you find yourself pulled from task to task faster than you can refocus on each new one
  • cycle of firefighting
  • important unaddressed problems blow up, leaving you with less time
  • Undefended boundaries
  • failure to establish solid boundaries defining what you are willing and not willing to do
  • the more you give, the less they will respect and the more they will take
  • if you do not establish your boundaries, you can not expect others to do it for you
  • Brittleness
  • uncertainty in transitions breeds rigidity and defensiveness, especially in leaders with a high need for control results in an overcommitment to a failing course of action make calls prematurely and feel unable to back away without losing credibility the longer you wait, the harder it is to back away rigidity disempowers others with equally valid ideas
  • Isolation
  • do not take the time to make the right connections
  • overreliance on a few people or “official” information
  • unintentionally discourage people from sharing critical information
  • isolation breeds uninformed decision making, which damages credibility and reinforces isolation
  • Biased judgement
  • a loss of perspective because of well-recognised weaknesses in human decision making
  • overcommitment to a failing course of action
  • due to ego and credibility issues
  • confirmation bias
  • the tendency to focus on information that confirms your beliefs and filter out what does not
  • self-serving illusions
  • a tendency for your personal stake in a situation to cloud your judgement
  • optimistic overconfidence
  • underestimation of the difficulties associated with your preferred course of action
  • greater risk of bias
  • when the stakes get higher
  • when uncertainty and ambiguity increases
  • when emotions run high
  • Work avoidance
  • results in tough problems getting tougher
  • Going over the top
  • burnout

Create virtuous cycles that build momentum that build momentum rather than vicious cycles that sap strength equilibrium to aim for identified as self-efficacy.

  • Pillar 1: adopting success strategies
  • early success with core strategies increase confidence and energise you for future success
  • Pillar 2: enforcing personal disciplines
  • knowing what you should be doing is not the same as doing it
  • success or failure emerge from the accumulation of daily choices
  • develop routines
  • plan to plan
  • eg., 10 minutes at the end of each day, 30 at the end of each week
  • judiciously defer commitment
  • begin with no, it is easy to say yes later
  • it is difficult to say yes and change your mind
  • ask if the “future you” will hate the “present you” for saying yes
  • set aside time for hard work
  • set aside time for the most important thing that need to be done
  • eg., 30 minutes each day
  • go to the balcony
  • do not get too caught up in the emotional dimension
  • stand back, take stock and make productive interventions
  • difficult when stakes are high and you are emotionally involved
  • focus on process
  • avoid alienating others when implementing good ideas
  • arriving at decisions with dissension and disagreement
  • influence process design
  • check in with yourself
  • engage in structured reflection of your situation
  • eg., 15 minutes at the end of each week to answer the same set of responses to identify patterns
  • guidelines for structured reflection
  • What do you feel so far?
  • Excited? If not, why not? What can you do about it?
  • Confident? If not, why not? What can you do about it?
  • In control of your success? If not, why not? What can you do about it?
  • What has bothered you so far?
  • With whom have you failed to connect?
  • Of the meetings you have attended, which have been the most troubling? Why?
  • Of all that you have seen and heard, what has disturbed you the most? Why?
  • What has gone well or poorly?
  • Which interactions would you handle differently if you could? Which exceeded your expectations? Why? Which of your decisions have turned out particularly well? Not so well? Why? What missed opportunities do you regret most? Was a better result blocked primarily by you or by something beyond your control?
  • recognize when to quit
  • transitions are marathons, not sprints
  • Pillar 3: building your support systems
  • assert control locally
  • it is hard to focus on work if the basic infrastructure is not in place
  • develop routines, clarify expectations
  • stabilize the home front
  • you can not create value at work if you are destroying value at home
  • build your advice-and-counsel network
  • cultivate three types of advice givers
  • technical advisers
  • provide expert analysis of technologies, markets and strategy
  • suggest applications for new technologies
  • recommend strategies for entering new markets
  • provide timely and accurate information
  • cultural interpreters
  • help you understand the new culture and adapt to it
  • provide you with insight into cultural norms, mental models, and guiding assumptions
  • help you speak the language of the new organisation
  • political counselors
  • help you deal with political relationships within your organisation
  • help you implement the advice of your technical advisors
  • serve as a sounding board as you think through options for implementing your agenda
  • challenge you with what-if questions
  • assess the three types of advisors across you internal and external network

Just a few snippets, take what adds value and all the best as you map your next 90 days.

American & Australian, playing in the cross-section of people, business and digital, with a passion for discovering how we all tick