Posted in: Bloggery

A new job is like a fresh start for many people: a significant new investment of time and enthusiasm.  You may not be sure yet of the challenges or how you will meet them, but you know that first impressions – especially in the first 3 months – are critical to your success – or failure.

A question sometimes asked in recruitment courtships is “what would be your 100 day plan?”  In other words, how would you plan to tackle this job and what would you expect to accomplish in the first 100 days?  The question is most often put to aspirant CEOs and others heading into significant leadership positions.

It is a hypothetical question which irritates me, because we think that the first 100 days should be more about discovery and listening, than rushing about doing things.  Sure, some relatively early decisions may be needed about people deployment, and the organisation may have a pressing issue or two needing attention.  But, as far as possible, the smartest thing to do in the early period in a senior role is to listen to and engage with as many people in an organisation as possible.  It is a time to collect facts, perceptions and a sense of the culture operating in the business.  It is a time, possibly the only time, when “dumb” questions can be asked, and when people at all levels can be approached without undue political implications being attached to the process.

Despite these reservations it is a question often asked at interview and so you should be ready for it.  It also sets the groundwork for the KPIs on which a new executive will be assessed.

We have a set of notes covering this entry to a new role, which are organised as follows:

Climb the learning curve as fast as you can
(Here we provide a range of good questions, to ask of as wide a range of internal people and external stakeholders as possible.)

Have a strategy
(Here our notes begin:  “Match your strategy to the situation. Is this a start up? Is the group in trouble and you need to get the unit back on track? Do you need to revitalize the project or area? Or is this a well oiled machine that you simply need to keep moving in the right direction?  A theme here is to avoid taking on too much and don’t try to fix what isn’t broken yet….”)

Make good things happen right away
We suggest finding a few simple but modest initiatives, just to associate your new presence with some positive outcomes early on.

Build relationsips
An obvious observation – and we discuss the wide spectrum of relationships most senior jobs involve. Many careers come to grief through poor, or incomplete relationship building, and the processes of building a coalition of support over time.  Start doing this early, perhaps reflecting on a certain Prime Minister as you do so.

Take a systems approach
Clearly working with an organisation model, mapping key stakeholders, and processes – or perhaps using the McKinsey seven “S” model in collecting data will be really useful.

The last three headings in our notes are:

Build your team
Create Coalitions
Relax into your job

Clearly this is not the place to go further into the detail of this, but the broad point is that none of these activities involve making critical direction-shifting decisions.

The ‘first 100 days’ question has the connotation that as much as possible must be “done” in a visible sense, that this is a time to lead sweeping change.  Well, much needs to be “done” alright, but more by way of capturing intelligence.  It is a time for being acknowledged as someone who respects embedded wisdom and intends to build on it before leading major change.