Approaching a new job assignment is exciting but also challenging, stressful and critical to your success. Perhaps you have your own techniques for approaching this scenario, or perhaps you see each new job as different and adjust your technique accordingly. Whichever the case, perhaps you will find some useful options to try out from this column.
Why should we use 90 days as the focus? This isnt scientific, but in my experience, you should, by the end of 90 days in the new job, be conversant with the following:
Your team, including the key responsibilities of each person reporting to you, their current key projects and goals, the metrics by which they are being regularly measured, and their career history and aspirations.
Your boss and his or her top five expectations for you over the next few years, as well as how your boss likes to communicate both with regard to mode and frequency.
Your peers, especially those with whom you need to interact on a regular basis due to close working relationships between your groups or functions. What are they delivering to you, and what do you need from them?
Key deliverables for your overall organization or your job, including the metrics by which you or your group is being measured and any projects you need to deliver, with costs and timelines. Try to get a sense of the pinch points in these deliverables. Which deliverables are going to be particularly tough and why?
The overall company Mission/Vision/Values/Strategy, and its financial plans at a high level. It is important to understand your current year budget and any plans in place to meet it.
Planning and meeting cycles. What meetings are you expected to attend and what are you expected to deliver? What meetings are planned in your organization or in other parts of the organization that could be useful for you to attend in order to integrate yourself into the company or function?
This is a lot of information to absorb in a short amount of time. The good news is that often a lot of this information is already available in written form, and you can peruse it as time allows and then cover questions with your team or your boss or peers as necessary.
You may want to do that reading in the evenings or on the weekends since a critical part of the first 90 days is getting out there and being visible with the people in your organization. It is a time to start building relationships, especially with your boss, your direct reports and your critical peers. Through these conversations, you can start to establish trust and at the same time gain important information about the company or functional culture and how it works.
Ask people if they mind you taking notes during some of these conversations, as you will no doubt be overloaded with details and you may need to go back to the notes later on. Try to do some socializing, such as dinners or drinks one-on-one with your boss or your direct reports, as this will allow you to understand them better on a personal basis. If you have the opportunity to travel together, this can be a perfect time to get to know each other better and have many conversations over a short period of time, thus jump-starting the learning process but in a potentially enjoyable way!
An important aspect of your first 90 days on the job is that you have few pre-conceived notions, and so you may be in a unique position to see things that those close to the action have missed. You may have some great experiences from previous companies or jobs that you can draw on and apply. Be especially attentive to how functions or groups interface. From your perspective as a newcomer, you may be able to spot overlaps and gaps to address.
But a cautionary note, too: Take note of your observations and run them by others to make sure you havent misunderstood something. Also during these first 90 days, you dont really want to make big changes yet – unless of course there is some disaster afoot that needs immediate attention and action. Examples could be safety issues, a budget issue that is already off track and for which time is of the essence, important customer or product quality issues, and the like. In such situations, take some action and look to achieve some early and critical wins.
There are some specific actions to take depending on what the new job is. If you are entering a sales function, it critical to visit customers during the first 90 days, or if entering a supply function, to visit key suppliers and plants during that period. Before doing so, you should get a briefing or do your own homework on the customer or supplier, regarding key volume and pricing trends, complaints or issues, joint projects and key personnel. While you are unlikely to be expected to know lots of detail, you are still representing your company and function, and you do not want to appear uninformed. These early meetings provide a great opportunity to hear directly from the customer or supplier their unfiltered views and feedback.
Be sure to ask lots of questions and make certain you understand key terminology and definitions. Often the same or similar terms can be used in different companies or parts of an organization, but the meaning or calculations may not be the same. You may want to meet with some financial analysts in your organization to make sure you understand key financial terms and reports.
Once the 90 days are up, whats next? Consider meeting with your team and your boss to review any key observations you have. This can be a great way for you to summarize your thoughts, check for any areas of misunderstanding and set up your agenda for the next year.
If you have found during the first 90 days that there is some significant problem in staffing, organizational performance or structure, you may want to spend the next 90 days gathering more information on the issue and possible solutions before you take action.
On the other hand, if you are generally satisfied with what you have found, then focus in your second 90 days on solidifying your knowledge base, strengthening key relationships, deepening your contacts both internally and externally, and establishing your reputation and personal brand.
Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. E-mail her at saralefcourt@
gmail.com or phone (908) 400-5210.