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The First 90 Days is Critical to a Leaders Success

What actions leaders take in their first 90 days on the job is important to their success within the organization.   After meeting with employees, supervisors, managers, and other executive team members, all too often leaders immediately become immersed in the full operational aspects of the organization with no clear action plan for success.  Leaders should take the time to develop a well strategized plan for execution and get to know its team before making any decisions about people, their knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Many leaders first 90 days consist of putting out fires, unsystematically getting acquainted to their new environment, filling vacant positions, and making swift judgment calls as to the competence of their management team and its staff.

Proactive Leadership

The average time to successfully fill an executive level position can range from an estimated 45 to 72 days.  Due to the absence of a leader's presence in the department or organization, leaders should understand and be aware that the work environment they are entering may illustrate anarchy, uncertainty, incompetence, and lack of motivation or productivity. To counteract these surprises, leaders should make every effort to gain as much knowledge as possible about internal business operations and the team during phases of the interview process.  Questions should be directly focused on specifically gaining a snapshot view of organizational challenges, people dynamics, and competencies of the management team and staff.  The answers to these questions should provide some insight into how one should proceed with approaching the development of a strategic plan.   

Steps to Creating an Effective 90-Day Strategic Plan

To create a solid foundation for an effective strategic plan, the first 30 days should consist of observing, listening, prioritizing, and delegating.  The information obtained in the interview process, should well assist in the completion of this phase of the strategic plan.  The timely completion of the strategic plan is critical and should be developed within the first month, leaving 60 days for application and execution.  When developing a 90-day strategic plan, leaders must first identify plan goals and objectives.  They must specifically identify what it is that they want to accomplish within this time period.  For example, one may want to understand workflow processes and procedures or what issues are most pressing for the business unit and organization.  Leaders should be careful to not create an exhaustive list which may be difficult to accomplish within this timeframe.  The focus here is to create a plan that includes categories that will assist with learning more about specific key areas such as business dynamics and operations, organizational culture, and the workforce.  Next, identify the most pressing issues facing the organization and which issues need immediate attention.  By identifying the organizations most critical issues, leaders should quickly be able to assess if managers are spending time on issues of relevance and can later work to better define or redefine specific and achievable performance measures. 

 Understanding Business Dynamics, Organizational Culture, and the Workforce

Some leaders may enter environments in which they have had minimal industry exposure, but may have achieved success due to their ability to accomplish tasks through others.  Remember, effective leaders don't lead organizations--they lead people.  Immediately scanning and assessing the work environment and the staff are imperative.  Relying on business data at this point is important.  One should obtain data from annual reports, review budgets and any other financial information, as well as organizational policies and procedures.  When all of this data is assembled, this can paint a lucid picture of the organization and its operations.  When assessing organizational culture, leaders should gather data on the organization's mission, values, and goals.  This is also a good time to apply effective listening and communication skills.  The written mission, values, and goals can point to desired objectives, but reality can point elsewhere. Copious note taking, open communication and concentrated observation will prove beneficial in a thorough assessment of the organizational culture.  Lastly, exercising caution in assessing and evaluating the team is essential.  Leaders should get to know their team before making judgment calls on competence, skills, and performance.  Immediately eliminating and replacing staff can create an adverse effect on employee morale and productivity and could potentially result in increased and undesired turnover.

A leaders first months on the job can be structured and effective.  With proactive leadership and a well-executed strategic plan, the first 90 days can be productive and rewarding and establish a foundation for future success.

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