Book Review: ‘The First 90 Days’ by Michael Watkins

If you want to succeed in a new role within your organization or if you are starting a new job, READ THIS BOOK.

This book was suggested to me by the organization I work for. I didn’t pick it up at first but after being moved into a new role 9 months after I started, I thought it wouldn’t hurt. This book captured me in the first two sentences of page 1:

“The President of the United States gets 100 days to prove himself; you get 90. The actions you take during your first three months in a new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail.”

Michael Watkins couldn’t be more right and no one should know this more than me. I’ve worked for 5 different organizations and the ability to transition within the culture and assimilate within the team is one of the toughest things I’ve ever encountered. It’s probably why most people don’t switch jobs very often. Job transition is something that is rarely taught but one of the most important things to learn. And transition doesn’t only mean going to another organization but it also means going to another team internally or preparing for a promotion. ‘The First 90 Days’ is a great book but more importantly it is a manual that you should flip through every time you go through a career transition.

The reality is that most organizations are not good at on-boarding new employees. First impressions are everything and if you don’t identify the proper stakeholders and learn and respect the culture and work processes, you can find yourself climbing up a very tough corporate ladder. Michael gives examples of transitions from four different types of organizations he calls STARS situations:

  • Start-Up
  • Turnaround
  • Realignment
  • Sustaining Success

The way you transition into an organization depends on the type of situation/organizational state you are in. You must react and prepare yourself differently for each of these scenarios.

A few other key things I learned from this book:

  • What makes you successful in one role, may not make you successful in another
  • Try to gather as many ‘quick wins’ as you can to gain stakeholder confidence
  • Plan to learn – figure out what the most important questions are and identify who can answer them for you
  • Create a ‘Learning Plan’ as a means to translate learning goals into specific sets of actions
  • Formulate a ’90 Day Plan’ to design a successful transition into a new role

I strongly recommend this book for anyone facing a career transition. You won’t regret reading this book and like your car manual, you’ll definitely need it again and again.

Have your say