Probation of Three Months


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No More Than Three Months!

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Probation of Three Months

  1. 1. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 The First 90 Days – Book Summary One of the better books that I have read is called The First 90 Days - Success Strategies for New Leaders by Harvard professor Michael Watkins. The book is tailored to people1 who are new to leadership roles. This book is not only for new "people managers", but many of the strategies discussed can be applied to just about anyone taking on a leadership role (e.g. Project Managers) or someone taking on a new role in their community (e.g. Cub e.g. Scout Den Leaders). The First 90 Days can be broken down into 5 main topics; How to get yourself focused How to learn your new role faster How to choose the right strategy How to make good things happen right away How to build a winning team Why do I bring this book up now? I am embarking upon a new role within the company I work for. In light of that, I thought it would be a good idea to break this book out of my library and brush up on some of the key concepts. I first read this book 4 years ago before I started a new job. Not my last job, but the job prior to that. It served me well and helped me define my road map for the first 90 road-map days of my new role. Below I will do my best to summarize the main points of the book. Wali Memon
  2. 2. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 Focus Yourself Mentally prepare yourself for your new role. Put the past behind you. What worked before wont necessarily serve you well2 now. Dont ignore what you dont know. Along those same lines; Establish a clear break point. Celebrate the transition and then be done. Do whatever it takes to forget your old role and focus on the new. Hit the ground running. At the 90 day mark, your boss, your peers, your direct reports expect you to be making an impact. Asses your vulnerabilities. Identify your "problem preferences". That is; the problems you prefer to work on. Make a point not to neglect the activities you do not enjoy or activities that do not come naturally. Accelerate Your Learning Define your learning agenda. What do you need to learn 1st, 2nd, 3rd? Adopt a structured learning method. This is a favorite of mine! This step has served me quite well in the past. Meet with your new boss and direct reports and ask the following questions; • What are the biggest challenges the organization (or team) is facing (or will face) in the near future? Wali Memon
  3. 3. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 • Why is the organization (or team) facing (or going to face) these challenges? • What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth? • What would need to happen or the organization (or team) to exploit3 the potential of these opportunities? • If you were me, what would you focus on? Match your Strategy to the Situation Be sure to correctly diagnose the situation Start-up. Is this a new team (or company)? Turnaround. Is the group in trouble and you need to get things back on track? Realignment. Do you need to revitalize the project, team or processes? Sustaining Success. Is this a well oiled machine that you simply need to keep moving in the right direction? Understand the History. What got the team, company, project to the current state. Seek to understand the history. Focus your energy. Ask yourself; How much emphasis will I place on learning versus doing? How much emphasis will I place on offense versus defense? Wali Memon
  4. 4. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 What should I do to get some early wins? Make good things happen right away It is crucial to get some early wins. You want to make sure your boss, peers and4 subordinates all feel that something new and good is happening. Here are some of the most common mistakes that will prevent something new and good from happening; Failing to focus. Its easy to take on too much during a transition. The results can be disastrous. Not taking the business situation into account. The definition of an early win will differ greatly based on the situation you are in. Not adjusting to the corporate culture. If you are an outsider, make understanding the culture a high priority. Failing to get wins that matter to your boss. Be it right, wrong or indifferent, if its not important to your boss, its not important. Letting your means undermine your ends. Avoid being perceived as manipulative, underhanded or going against corporate culture. Establish long term goals Be consistent with organizational priorities. Wali Memon
  5. 5. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 Introduce the new patterns of behavior you want to install in the organization (or team). Build your credibility. Your earliest actions with your new team will have a huge influence on how you are perceived. Negotiate success (Part I). Engage with your new boss to establish realistic5 expectations. Here are a few things to avoid when engaging with your new boss; Dont trash the past. Nothing can be gained from criticising your predecessors. Dont stay away. If your boss doesnt reach out to you, reach out yourself to him or her. Dont surprise your boss. Even bad new is OK as long as it is not a surprise. Dont approach your boss only with problems. Be sure to understand the problem and identify what youll (realistically) need before approaching your boss. Dont run down your checklist. Its rarely that your boss wants to hear every nit-and-nat you are working on. Dont try to change your boss. Adapt to his/her style rather than the other way around. Negotiate success (Part II). Engage with your new boss to establish realistic expectations. Here are a few things you should do when engaging with your new boss; Wali Memon
  6. 6. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 Take 100% responsibility for making the relationship work. Clarify mutual expectations early and often. Negotiate time-lines for diagnosis and actions. Aim for early wins in areas that are important to your boss. Try to get "good grades" from those whose opinions your boss respects.6 Achieve Alignment. You want to make sure your organization or team is all marching in the same direction. Try to avoid some of the common mistakes; Resist changing any structure until you understand whether restructuring will address the root cause of any problems. Creating structures that are too complex. Dont over-engineer things. Automate problem processes. If the process is flawed, fix the process first. Dont be tempted to automate a flawed process. Make changes for changes sake. Overestimate your teams capacity to absorb change. Focus on a few vital priorities and make changes gradually if time permits. Wali Memon
  7. 7. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 Build your team A high performing team can create tremendous value. Avoid the following common7 mistakes when creating your organizational plans; Some leaders clean house too quickly, but its more common to keep people on-board too long. Not repairing the airplane. Molding a team is like repairing a plane in mid- flight. You will not reach your destination if you ignore the necessary repairs. Not holding on to good people. Starting team-building before the core team is in place. Trying to do it all yourself. Assess your existing team. During your first 30-60 days, assess who is who, who are the high performers, who are the sub-par performers. Dont suppress these early impressions, but take a step back from them and take the time to make a more vigorous evaluation. If your success depends on the support of people outside your direct line of command, its important to create coalitions to get things done. Michael Watkins presents methods for success for new leaders in positions with various issues. Wali Memon
  8. 8. The First 90 Days – Book Summary 2010 The methods involve: promote yourself, accelerate your learning, match strategy to the situation, secure early wins, negotiate success, achieve alignment, build your team, create coalitions, keep your balance, expedite everyone,8 This book will not teach you how to be a leader but it can help you avoid problems when assuming command of groups or companies. Each chapter presents situations where people made mistakes and shows how they could have been avoided. Overall, I found the book to be useful as I read issues where I could have handled better and learned a few tips to do things better. I do suggest this book for people as it can help the beginner with advice and I think it can help the experienced manager with a few suggestions to consider. Wali Memon