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30-60-90 Day Plans October 26, 2009

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, strategy.
Tags: , , , ,

I recently started a new job that includes assuming management responsibility for an existing department. My immediate superior asked me to put together a 30-60-90 day plan, describing in detail my activities for the first three months in the position. This approach for planning and tracking the transition from new-hire to effective leader seems to be widely-used, and I think the intent is to provide some structure and purpose during a potentially confusing and chaotic period.

I agreed to write up a plan, eager to please my new manager, but I realized almost immediately how difficult it is to see three months into the future, certainly not to any practical level of detail. Like a flashlight in a dark room, the view is pretty good in the near field, but gets more fuzzy and ill-defined the further away you try to look. It seems to me that the plan for the second and third month is entirely dependent on what’s learned in the first few weeks; and certainly impossible for an outsider to predict with accuracy based on limited information. I don’t mean to say that long-term planning should be avoided, just that it’s unlikely that a manager just starting a new assignment can be that clairvoyant.

I think it’s also unrealistic to expect that a new manager will have the luxury of systematically observing the inherited team from afar. Inevitably there will be a crisis of some kind that will demand immediate attention, then another and another. I can’t remember a job that allowed me to ramp up slowly, gradually adding responsibilities and relationships to build a well-tested mental model of how the organization works (or doesn’t work). The first weeks are a time of trial-and-error as the new manager picks and chooses from among their various life experiences and skills to find the most effective and appropriate combination in the new environment.

Given the limited fortune-telling powers of the new manager and the limited patience of the new organization, what can be done in the first few months to accelerate the learning curve? Here’s a list of questions that should be asked at every opportunity.

Learn the team: These are the resources available to you. Who reports to you? What are they working on right now? Why are they working on that (instead of something else)? What do they need to do the task they’ve been assigned? What’s getting in their way?

Learn the partners: These are the people you need outside the team. Where are the interfaces to your team? Who does the team rely on for information? Who else attends meetings with your team? What are their expectations? What’s working and not working in their relationship with your team?

Learn the customers: This is the reason your business is in business. Who does this business sell to? What do they need? How do we know that’s what they need? How does your team help meet customer needs?

Learn the processes: This is how the work gets done. How does the team work together with partners to meet customer needs? Those are the processes that matter. There may be other processes, but if they’re not directly linked to satisfying the customer or enabling your team to do the same, then they’re not nearly as important to you in these early weeks.

Learn the measures: This is how you know the processes are working as-intended. Unfortunately most organizations don’t measure their processes, or they have measures that lead to behaviors that don’t really help sell to your customers. You can start building the right measures by asking how the team knows whether they’re successful or not.

That’s enough to start. The questions may not follow a 30-60-90 day plan, but they’ll help you understand what’s important to the team, where the gaps are, and where you’re most needed.



1. 30 60 90 - October 3, 2011

Thanks for the tips! Thanks for posting this great article!

2. After 90 Days, Follow the Money « Managing in the 2000s - December 1, 2011

[…] I wrote over two years ago about starting a new job and figuring out what’s needed. See: 30-60-90 Day Plans. After 90 days the initial disorientation should have passed, and it should be clear what the […]

3. 2013 Year in Review: Lessons Learned | Managing in the 2000s - December 17, 2013

[…] until relocating to Colorado in June. I re-read a couple of my previous blog posts for advice (See: 30-60-90 Day Plans and  Managing Remote Teams), and generally spent my time learning about the people, processes, […]

4. Getting Off to a Good Start | Managing in the 2000s - January 13, 2014

[…] You got the job, so you have some credibility. However, you can reduce your paranoia and focus on the job by establishing your reputation and delivering quick results. After that, start on your 30-60-90 Day Plans. […]

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