For Executives Taking on a New Role: Plan for 30, 60, 90 Days and Beyond

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Be strategic about your executive transition plan

An informal transition plan is better than no plan at all. Better still is taking a strategic approach that establishes your credibility and delivers quick, tangible results.

Download this toolkit for a quick insight and tools for any executive, including guidance on:

  • Tailoring your transition plan

  • Establishing your personal brand

  • Delivering quick wins

Also scroll down for instant insights on where and how to focus from Day 1 and in-depth guides by role for a range of functional leaders.

Essentials for executives taking on a new role

To quickly establish your leadership in your function and within the broader enterprise, assess your unique situation, then organise and execute your first 90 days.

How do I speed up the time to impact as a new executive?

A recent Gartner survey found that about a quarter of executives are in transition at any given time. Of those executives in transition, about 40% are underperforming based on their own assessments of the percentage of objectives achieved.

Executives also get less time today to settle in. Traditionally, executives have been given 100 days to make an impact. But many organisations now need and expect new-to-role executives to deliver results more quickly. This is hard and the average time for the transitioning leader to achieve success is roughly seven months (far longer than expected).

Listen to this Gartner ThinkCast episode to hear Blakeley Hartfelder, Senior Director at Gartner, share how executives can demonstrate their impact more quickly and effectively in their early days and beyond.

Value of 30/60/90-day plans

To meet expectations and extend the period of goodwill, executives can use an incremental approach, setting 30/60/90-day milestones as part of a continuous plan of testing ideas with key stakeholders, adjusting first 90-day plans based on enterprise capability and delivering measurable results.

Each 30-day increment in a first-90-day plan reinforces the new executive’s brand and their function and is designed to improve the performance of the enterprise as a whole. 

To move from new to successful, you need to do the following:

  1. Develop a coherent story that demonstrates your understanding of the business model, how the enterprise needs to compete to be successful and your function’s role in creating that success. 

  2. Continuously assess enterprise capabilities, especially those within executive control, as they are required to achieve the business growth represented in the story.

  3. Cultivate relationships throughout the new organisation using the story and asking questions that refine the story, and create a path forward.

  4. Meticulously build an ongoing strategy and implementation plan.

Five focus areas in any executive’s new-to-role road map

The Gartner road map for transitioning leaders features five overlapping phases, but focus on those most critical to driving your outcomes. 

No. 1: Prepare
  • Learn about the organisation’s culture.

    • Be clear about the organisation and its strategy

    • Validate your cultural fit with the organisation and understand misalignments

    • Identify key stakeholders critical to your role

  • Build a communication plan. 

    • Be aware of communication channels and styles so you can set the right tone and cadence in your communications

    • Know how to conduct effective stakeholder discussions and adjust for different audiences

    • Create discussion guides that engage staff and build trust

  • Align on expectations for the role.

    • Alignment with the CEO and/or your manager on your core responsibilities, span of authority and how your performance will be evaluated

    • Understand the CEO’s appetite for change and the perception and bases of your function’s challenges

    • Understand recent market dynamics or organisational changes

No. 2: Assess
  • Assess your function.

    • Identify functional metrics and KPIs, along with how they are measured, linked and performing

    • Establish baseline knowledge of functional maturity and performance, maturity gaps and improvement opportunities

    • Prioritise the key organisational and operating needs and deliverables to address

    • Draft initial ideas on how changing customer, employee or market conditions may alter strategy

  • Build relationships.

    • Get further insight into the inner workings of the organisation

    • Clarify your team’s strengths and opportunities

    • Understand the internal politics related to your new position

No. 3: Plan
  • Create a functional strategy. 

    • Create an initial strategic road map with a plan of action for the first 100 days and beyond

    • Secure CEO and key stakeholder buy-in on the budget and strategic road map

    • Establish a budget that includes opportunities for cost reduction and/or reallocation

  • Identify early wins

    • List your three highest-value quick wins to pursue

    • List short- and longer-term challenges, vetted by your trusted stakeholders and manager

No. 4: Act
  • Execute on quick wins.

    • Fine-tune your understanding of people and process dynamics in the execution of work

    • Deliver selected quick wins across the first 100 days, meeting or beating target deadlines and performance expectations

    • Designate owners for new strategic initiatives to drive the successful execution of existing projects

    • Clarify your priorities, based on feedback from stakeholders and the impact of quick wins on performance metrics

  • Define a next set of strategic initiatives.

    • Create a strategic “script” for the function, showing the starting point, destination, reason for the change and initial first steps

    • Clarify team roles and objectives that ensure all employees know the specific responsibilities and goals they will be evaluated against

No. 5: Measure
  • Review the plan and make adjustments.

    • Get feedback from key stakeholders on your effectiveness, with areas that require further attention

    • Assess outcomes related to your plan goals

    • Update priorities to ensure perpetual alignment with your organisation’s mission critical initiatives

    • List metrics to kick-start a process of continuous improvement and identify new or emerging metrics to track

    • Refine short- and long-term strategic goals and operational objectives

  • Communicate successes. 

    • List successes, key lessons learned and areas for improvement

    • Provide evidence of early feedback and quick wins for your CEO/manager and other relevant stakeholders

Understand the organisation you are entering and the leader you are following

Your success in a new role could depend heavily on the impact of the leader you are replacing and the initiatives already underway. 

When viewed through this situational lens, four scenarios emerge, accounting for about 90% of all leadership transitions.

Situation 1: Replacing an icon

By following a leader hailed as an icon, executive leaders struggle to put their stamp on the organisation while respecting the legacy of their predecessor. Although this accounts for only 10% of all transition types, make sure the executive leadership team helps you clarify your role quickly and resist the temptation to mirror the icon. Forge relationships of your own that will help legitimise and advance your agenda.

Situation 2: Following a “train wreck”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, accounting for 20% of transitions, are the “train wreck” transitions in which the previous executive leader has significantly failed. When you start a role in this situation, make sure you have a clear vision for the organisation and forge productive new relationships, and repair those damaged by underperformance.

Situation 3: Jump-start 

In this case (35% of all transitions) the previous leader’s performance is solid but not outstanding and the organisation needs to quickly move in a different direction because of a change in strategy or the broader economic environment. Focus on quickly understanding the industry, organisation and team dynamics, and actively use existing networks and teams to socialise and drive change.

Situation 4: Breaking ground

This type of transition (25%) involves moving into a newly created position, underscored by the increasing presence of executive roles for managing new priorities related to social media, data, risk, sustainability and shared services. If you are breaking new ground, make sure you clearly understand the responsibilities and objectives of your role and the critical universe of stakeholders around you.

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