What are the keys to successful transitions into new situations or roles? How do you learn, set priorities, create plans and direct action to build momentum? How do you gain confidence and get energized by your accomplishments? You can adopt a proven set of success strategies. In The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins writes about ten key strategies that provide a roadmap for success.
Key Success Strategies
Watkins identifies ten key success strategies:
- Promote yourself.
- Accelerate your learning.
- Match strategy to situation.
- Secure early wins.
- Negotiate success.
- Achieve alignment.
- Build your team.
- Create coalitions.
- Keep your balance.
- Expedite everyone.
Key Success Strategies Explained
Watkins explains the key success strategies:
- Promote yourself. This doesn't mean hiring your own publicist. It means making the mental break from your old job and preparing to charge in the new one. Perhaps the biggest pitfall you face is assuming that what has made you successful to this point in your career will continue to do so. The dangers of sticking with what you know, working extremely hard at doing it, and failing miserably are very real.
- Accelerate your learning. You need to climb the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. This means understanding its markets, products, technologies, systems, and structures, as well as its culture and politics. Getting acquainted with a new organization can feel like drinking from a fire hose. You have to be systematic and focused about deciding what you need to learn and how you will learn it most efficiently.
- Match strategy to situation. There are no universal rules for success in transitions. You need to diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities. Start-ups, for instance -- of a new product, process, plant or a completely new business -- share challenges quite different from those you would face while turning around a product, process, or plant in serious trouble. A clear diagnosis of the situation is an essential prerequisite for developing your action plan.
- Secure early-wins. Early wins build your credibility and create momentum. They create virtuous cycles that leverage the energy you are putting into the organization to create a pervasive sense that good things are happening. In the first few weeks, you need to identify opportunities to build personal credibility. In the first 90 days, you need to identify ways to create value, improve business results, and get to the breakeven point more rapidly.
- Negotiate success. because no other single relationship is important, you need to figure out how to build a productive relationship with your new boss and manage his or her expectations. This means carefully planning for a series of critical conversations about the situation, expectations, style, resources, and your personal development. Crucially, it means developing and gaining consensus on your 90-day plan.
- Achieve alignment. The higher you rise in an organization, the more you have to play the role of organizational architect. This means figuring out whether the organization's strategy is around, bringing structure into alignment with its strategy, and developing the systems and skill bases necessary to realize strategic intent.
- Build your team. If you are inheriting a team, you will need to reevaluate its members and perhaps restructure it to better meet the demands of the situation. Your willingness to make tough early personnel calls and your capacity to select the right people for the right positions is among the most important drivers of success during your transition. You will need to be both systematic and strategic in approaching the team-building challenge.
- Create coalitions. Your success will depend on your ability to influence people outside your direct line of control. Support alliances, both internal and external, will be necessary to achieve your goals. You should therefore start right away to identify whose support is essential for your success and to figure out how to line them up on your side.
- Keep your balance. In the personal and professional tumult of a transition, you will have to work hard to maintain your equilibrium and preserve your ability to make good judgements. The risks of losing perspective, getting isolated, and making bad calls are ever present during transitions. There is much you can do to accelerate your personal transition and to gain more control over your work environment. The right advice-and-counsel network is an indispensable resource.
- Expedite everyone. Finally, you need to help everyone in your organization -- direct reports, bosses, and peers -- accelerate their own transitions. The quicker you can get your new direct reports up to speed, the more you will help your own performance. Beyond that, the benefits to the organization of systematically accelerating everyone's transition are potentially vast.
Assessing Your Success
Now that you know the key success strategies, how do you check whether you're on track? You can use a set of diagnostic questions for checking whether you're on track. What's important is that the sum of strategies is better than the parts. As you put the strategies into practice, make sure you assess your success and tune as appropriate.
Key Take Aways
I find this set of strategies to be very grounded in the real-world. It's not theoretical success -- these strategies work. I've used these strategies on the job for getting results. Here's my key take aways:
- Know the key success strategies. While this might seem like a large set, it's actually a very concise set that when used together, produces outstanding results.
- Be flexible and adaptable. The real key here in responding to new challenges is your ability to change your mindset and approach. What got you here won't get you there.
- Don't go it alone. One of the big mistakes I see on a regular basis, is a smart person with great ideas that doesn't leverage the network. The network either works for you or against you. Why push rocks uphill? You'll also need your network for support when your plans don't go as expected.
- Keep a balanced scorecard. Turn failure into lessons and keep your wins in mind. Your wins build personal momentum.
- Focus on the big rocks. The key here is not doing everything that's possible. It's about focusing on the right things. I think the secret here is not only figuring out what your group considers valuable, but making sure that you carve out time to work on the tough stuff. It's all too easy to nail a bunch of little stuff to end up with insignificant results. It's also all to easy to put your all into something, only to find out that the business, your manager or your team doesn't care. Find out what's important and nail that.
- One size doesn't fit all. The beauty of this collection of strategies is that it's a system for success. It's not a hammer. It's an adaptable framework of approaches and measures that you can leverage to make sure you're doing the right things, the right way, and keeping your balance. I think the biggest insight here is keeping in mind that your people, processes, and products can be in various maturity levels. Diagnosing your portfolio will give you a better vantage point so you choose the right strategies.
My Related Posts
- Checking Whether You're on Track
- Building Your Advice-and-Counsel Network
- Yerkes-Dodson Human Performance Curve
- Avoiding Vicious Cycles
- Guidelines for Structured Reflection
- Influence Network
- Diagnosing Your Portfolio
- Securing Early Wins
- Five Conversations to Have with Your Boss
- Start-ups, Turnarounds, Realignments and Sustaining-Success
- STARS Model of Business Evolution