By Phil Klutts
February 8, 2022

Trust the transition with The First 90 Days

Michael D. Watkins outlines ten principles to succeed when transitioning to a new role.

The First 90 Days

By Michael D. Watkins

The Great Resignation is impacting companies and leaders in Edmond as much as anywhere. The results mean professionals are taking on new roles to fill the gaps or are part of the resignation and moving to new companies or starting their own ventures. Leading a new team is not easy, and guiding a department or company as the new person can be daunting.

The stakes have never been higher with all these personnel changes, not to mention the challenging economic landscapes. The First 90 Days is one of the best resources for learning and excelling when you are moving or have moved into a new role. You shouldn’t wait to read this book until you are in a new position. Be proactive and read this book sooner than you need it.

Michael D. Watkins originally wrote the book in 2003, then expanded and updated the content in 2013. This tenth-anniversary edition is now almost a decade old, but still incredibly relevant in 2022.

The First 90 Days focuses on ten fundamental principles to help you hit the break-even point as fast as possible. Watkins defines the break-even point as “the point at which you have contributed as much value to the organization as you have consumed from it.” He includes a graph of the concept, making it easy to understand and visualize how the content in the book can help.

Three of the ten principles focus on you as the leader. “Prepare yourself” is about making the transition from your old role to the new one. The type of role, whether a promotion, new focus, or different organization, will help define what you need to do in the transition. You can’t usually rely on old habits to make you successful in the new role. The second self-focused principle is to “accelerate your learning.” Efficiency is vital to climbing the learning curve early. “Keep your balance” is the final self-focused principle. Topics like self-discipline and keeping a support network will remind you to take care of your whole self during a transition.

The next three principles focus on the organization. “Securing early wins” and “achieving alignment” seem like no-brainers for a leadership transition. These two principles may come across as simple, but they are not easy. These chapters focus on actionable things you can do to focus on these areas.

One of the most impactful learnings for me in this book is this organization-focused principle: “Match your strategy to the situation.” Chapter three of the book outlines the STARS model, which is extremely helpful in determining your strategy and focus. STARS stands for Start-Up, Turnaround, Accelerated Growth, Realignment, and Sustaining Success. These five situations bring their own challenges and basic approach as a leader. Data from research conducted at Harvard is sprinkled throughout the book and is particularly interesting in this chapter.

The final four principles focus on people. “Negotiating success” and being able to “create coalitions,” “build your team,” and “accelerate everyone” are all strategies that concentrate on other people to help you be successful. The most important relationship is with your new boss. “Negotiating success” is all about how to define and navigate expectations with your direct supervisor. Making connections laterally in the organization can be easily overlooked, but it’s vitally important to success. You can use the principles in “create coalitions” to help this process.

Each chapter or principle uses both qualitative and quantitative data to explore the topic and actions needed for success. Your experience and situation will help dictate which parts of this book are most helpful for you. It is easy to believe that The First 90 Days lives up to the tagline of “The World’s Most Trusted Guide For Leaders in Transition.” The book states research that shows a typical leader will have 13.5 major transitions in his or her career. I’d argue in 2022 that this number could easily be higher.
Changes in economic and technological climates demand that we be prepared and willing to make professional transitions. The First 90 Days helps prepare anyone who is making such a transition.

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About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.