The First 90 Days Book Summary - The First 90 Days Book explained in key points
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The First 90 Days summary

Michael D. Watkins

Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

2.9 (460 ratings)
8 mins

Brief summary

The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins is a guide for professionals to navigate career transitions successfully, offering strategies to excel in new roles.
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    The First 90 Days
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    Accelerated learning is the first step to building your plan.

    Allison had made a name for herself as the breakout star of the marketing team at a mid-sized B2B software company. Joining the organization right after graduate school, she’d quickly understood the customer base and their needs – and seemed to have a golden touch when it came to building teams.

    She was thrilled, then, when she was hand-picked for a brand-new role as head of the launch team for a new software suite the company had been pouring years of R&D into. Given the timing of launch, the team would need to include a broad scope of members – from quality assurance and testers to market researchers and designers. Allison expected the team to come together seamlessly, just like in marketing. Everyone was used to a different management style, but she had time to work it out.

    So imagine her shock when, after just a few short weeks, she was called in by a very angry upper manager about problems in the team. Sure, she’d been surprised when tech members had raised issues with her detailed timeline – claiming it failed to account for many stages of their quality assurance. Dismissing their concerns as overcautiousness, she noticed soon afterward that the new team had begun avoiding her in the hallways. Soon, the technical members were boycotting her meetings altogether, and taking their complaints to management.

    What went wrong? Allison had always heard she had a golden touch with team-building – but those teams were closely aligned and shared similar working processes. In this new role, she’d relied on her team-building strengths. But she hadn’t educated herself on what leadership might require in a different context. She was so focused on being perceived as “getting the job done” that learning how this new mixed team might function fell to the wayside.

    Shaken by this experience, she acted decisively. She set up one-on-one meetings with all of the team members to listen to their concerns. She convened small groups from their respective departments, and met with other stakeholders on her team. She learned that processes and procedures varied widely across the departments she was now working with – and that her assumption that all teams were essentially the same had almost cost her this new role.

    Digging deeper, she learned that most early failures in a new role come down to failures in learning. Yet few leaders treat learning as a systematic part of taking on a new challenge. Even fewer leaders have a prioritized plan for learning when they step in. 

    This means that new leaders might be making changes without understanding how things came to work the way they currently do – without accounting for how the history of the organization has shaped the present. It can alienate and frustrate team members, who may feel dismissed or demoralized with the changes. 

    To get back on track, Allison realized, she needed to do some soul searching too.

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    What is The First 90 Days about?

    The First 90 Days (2006) maps out the critical transition period for any business leader taking on a new role. It offers comprehensive and practical strategies for surviving – and thriving – past the first three months.

    The First 90 Days Review

    The First 90 Days (2003) is a valuable resource for anyone starting a new role or facing a career transition. Here's what sets it apart:

    • It provides a proven framework for tackling the challenges of the first 90 days in a new position.
    • The book offers practical advice and actionable tips for making a strong impression and building momentum early on.
    • Its insights are applicable to various career stages and industries, making it a versatile read for professionals.

    Take charge of your career by reading The First 90 Days and making the most of your new opportunities.

    Who should read The First 90 Days?

    • Business leaders tackling a new role
    • Aspiring leaders preparing for their next move
    • Anyone looking to reduce their vulnerabilities as a leader

    About the Author

    Michael Watkins is a professor of leadership at the IMD Business School. He’s also an internationally recognized author on the subject of leadership development. His other books include Your Next Move and Predictable Surprises.

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    The First 90 Days FAQs 

    What is the main message of The First 90 Days?

    The main message of The First 90 Days is to provide strategies for professionals to excel during career transitions and new roles.

    How long does it take to read The First 90 Days?

    The estimated reading time for The First 90 Days is around 5-6 hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in about 15 minutes.

    Is The First 90 Days a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The First 90 Days is worth reading for its practical advice and proven framework to excel in new roles and career transitions.

    Who is the author of The First 90 Days?

    The author of The First 90 Days is Michael Watkins.

    How many chapters are in The First 90 Days?

    The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins has 10 chapters:

    1. Prepare Yourself
    2. Accelerate Your Learning
    3. Match Strategy to Situation
    4. Secure Early Wins
    5. Negotiate Success
    6. Achieve Alignment
    7. Build Your Team
    8. Create Coalitions
    9. Keep Your Balance
    10. Expedite Everyone

    How many pages are in The First 90 Days?

    The First 90 Days has 272 pages.

    When was The First 90 Days published?

    The First 90 Days was published in 2003.

    What to read after The First 90 Days?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The First 90 Days, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Leader Habit by Martin Lanik
    • The New Strategist by Günter Müller-Stewens
    • Radical Candor by Kim Scott
    • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M. Lencioni
    • What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader by Alison Reynolds
    • Your Brain on Porn by Gary Wilson
    • No Bullsh*t Leadership by Christ Hirst
    • The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill
    • The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
    • What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith