What Can You Do to Make a Difference in 90 Days?

18 01 2015

As an advisor to executives that recently were promoted, I have been asked how to get off to a good start in the new job.  This new job can be within the existing or for an entirely new company.  I am sure many of you faced the same questions as you progressed in your careers and many of you who are currently in job search mode have been asked during interviews by company executives about your short term plan to achieve success.  The plan can also be used as a “restart” plan where either the strategy of the organization has changed, the competitors have changed, or the management and vision has changed.   It gives an executive an opportunity to pause and rethink of the best path forward.  One of my favorite pictorials is the following and this blog will address how not to be confused.

If youi see a fork in the road

I want to share with you some thoughts and a high level template that can be used to develop your plan.   Additionally, I would like to suggest a book by Thomas Neff and James Citrin called “You’re in Charge- Now What?” as a nice complement to this blog.  Neff and Citrin are recruiters with Spencer Stuart and their book focuses on an 8 point plan for the most senior executives.  But their plan can be adapted to executives at any level.

Why a 90 day plan?  In 90 days, the new executive should have enough time to understand the new environment in which he or she operates and begin the process of executing a plan to makes changes.  Most companies have a relatively short term view and public companies report on a quarterly basis.  This plan can dovetail with the reporting systems and be used to tell the market (or customers or partners) that there is change coming.   And within this 90 day period, I believe that an executive can always find one or several different areas that can be improved and that can affect the top or bottom line of a company… or at least move in that right direction.

Let’s focus on a newly appointed executive in a new or expanded role.     While the specifics may change based on the individual executive, the type of company, and where on the growth curve that company lies, the following principles and templates can be used and modified.  The executive needs to detail the major proposed activities to be accomplished in the first 90 days, the major tasks and accompanying rationale;   Information required , tied to each task, and the rough timing and budget to perform the task.

The objectives of a 90 day plan are to:

  • Learn about the strategic initiatives, culture, customers, and suppliers to the company.
  • Build strong relationships with peer group within the company and with customers
  • Build trust among the team (executives, peers, and employees)
  • Set a strategic and tactical plan in motion.
  • Design a plan for future growth and profitability, cost efficiencies, manufacturing excellence, better customer support, better margin growth or other functional attributes.
    • Determine ways to drive the organization to realize its full potential through existing programs– benchmarking and process management, execution
    • Develop ways to grow the future business significantly through new products or expansion of our eco-system of suppliers and partners
  • Communicate the plan and the expectations to the constituents and  execute to the plan

The template to do this is as follows and specific activities, some of which are outlined below- are shown.

Flow of 90 day plan

Discovery:

Discovery is the most critical in my opinion as it sets the stage for the agenda and the tactical plan.   Included in discovery are the following elements:

  • Review general company, industry, competitor, customer, supplier material
  • Establish productive relationship with my boss
  • Face to face meetings with your team, top customers, sales/field VPs, other stakeholders to build trust and “seek to understand”

> Determine biggest challenges and opportunities

> Hot button issues (things that I call landmines which if not immediately acted upon                   can derail your success.)

  • Establish relationship with peer group: lunch, attend their staff meetings
  • Set expectations and convey those expectations to your team and other constituents.

I have always found that a written “discovery” document works wonders to get people on the same page and to ferret out where differences might lie.

Set the Agenda.

To set the agenda, there are two parts: drive to full potential and planning for the future.   The agenda is based on your specific objectives, the company strategy and the ability to start getting some meaningful results.   For a marketing person who is trying to bring their team to realize its full potential the agenda might include quick wins on revenue generation, or the execution of a product introduction plan or even defining a more cogent business or marketing strategy.  For a COO, the plan might include quick wins on operational efficiency, curing issues that customers deem important and where the company has failings.  In either case, part of driving to full potential is an analysis of the team and a plan for improving skills and changing or adding appropriate team members

In some companies, and for some positions, the focus is on growth.  Planning for the future might include things such as redefining growth objectives or planning for new customers or new applications or new eco-system partners or forming new strategic, operating, marketing and sales plans.

Execute the Plan.

The final –part of the plan is to communicate and execute the plan to perfection.   Focus on three or four major objectives at the most.   The key issue for success for the executive is FOCUS- focus on those areas most important and that will have the greatest effect. Once you gain credibility you will have the chance to do more.  Regardless of the specific tasks and the plan to execute, make sure you have a clear battle rhythm i.e. how you will manage your function or the business unit and memorialize that in a clear operational dashboard which can be shared.

Flexibility is key during the transition period and will change based on “discovery,” input from the board, executive bosses, peers, team, customers, and suppliers.  However, it is a roadmap that will put you on a path to success.

Glad to get your take on the plan.

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