The first 100 days

As you start a new job there is always an uneasiness that comes from a very basic question – “Am I doing the right thing?”. Surprisingly, you are not the only person in the world who has experienced it, and this phenomenon is known in modern parlance as on-boarding. Every new presidents, leader and CEO’s of an organisation know that when they transition into a new role and all eyes are on the new kid.


With many new things flying at you at a million miles and hour – the very basic question becomes one of survival, adapting and not making too many mistakes that will be regretted later.


The first mistake that many new executives make is to try and change the organisation into the paradigm in which they are comfortable with, forgetting that there is an existing way of doing things. The executive rationalises this by saying this is what they are employed for and the organisation often rejects the changes – with the executive not understanding for.


A good strategy is to

  1. Diagnose
  2. Enter
  3. Deliver
  4. Exit




First map out exactly who does what, understand the macro process flow and then get into the nitty-gritty. Before making a decision, ask to understand how a particular process, or phenomena works. Make sure to check this with more than one person and playback your understanding of how this works to many people, until you can discern fact from fiction. A good strategy is also to be building a macro-process map on paper so as to understand how the big pieces fit together.


A key survival strategy is to “find the grey beards”. There are people that have been around in an organisation for some time – and they can explain to you how things work.


As a politician or leader, you quickly need to build up a “kitchen cabinet” – who are people that can give you sound and honest advice about your progress, while being candid about what people on the ground are saying.


You may also be walking into a new arena in which nothing has been done before. The same strategy applies – first found out exactly what the expectations are at which level, before starting to swing for the fences.


A lot of executive look for quick wins or low hanging fruit in this stage – easy results that can be achieved fairly quickly that will sustain the challenge. Also if the role is very operational, in the early stage you focus on ensuring that existing processes run smoothly, while troubleshooting issues and getting to know the business better.


Typical duration: 30 – 45 days




Once you understand how it works, then you can start with systematic interventions that change things. The key to making this work is to take things on that you understand and that you can deliver on. Your first “campaign” is likely to define the nature of the rest of your career with this organisation – so choose wisely.


Firstly it is important to define where you want to get to. Starting with the end in mind is one of the most practical steps that you can ever learn in business. When you know where you want to be – start writing it down, drawing it out and defining aspects of the end vision. Your macro process map in the diagnosis phase will help.


In order to define this campaign – you also need to find a coalition of people that will be interested to support it. To do this – you have to analyse the stakeholders and understand who is likely to support your cause and also “how to get to them”. This can take the form of a stakeholder map and putting together what you know and do not know about a person and starting to work to find out more.


A key step that many forget is to make sure that your boss, board or superior is aware of and agrees with what you plan to do. Their buy-in is very, very, very important. Once they give you the go-ahead and have an idea of where you are going, the path will be much clearer. There is nothing more embarrassing than setting out to achieve a result, only to find out later that no-one is supporting it.


Typical duration: 15 days




The next step is to apply yourself to the steps that have to be followed, start making small changes that lead to bigger parts of your vision, testing the coalition that is supporting you to make sure that they see that you are starting to change things and to systematically work through any objections to your end vision. Reveal portions of the vision as you go along, so that those that are interested become custodians of different aspects of the journey.


A key step is to create visibility of your results. Reporting, messaging and daily communications should highlight what is happening and how you are moving forward. Don’t over communicate but make sure that key stakeholders know what is happening and make sure that the messaging is consistent.


Also keep tracking the issues and risks as you go along. Keep tracking these religiously and reviewing progress at every step.


Typical duration: 30 days.




It may seem hard at first but an important question to ask is to figure out how you are going to end an intervention. Remember that you had an end state in mind when you started – it is important to look at that end state and recognise what the elements would be that would be in place and that would signal an end to the campaign.


Not that you quit then – it is only the beginning – but then your energy needs to start shifting to initiating one or more areas of change and sustaining the path that you have set in motion.


It is also important to recharge a bit, while working on embedding the change. By making others responsible and delegating more authority to structures you put in place, within the first 80 days, you are getting to the stage where you need to refocus and ensure


Typical duration: 10 days.


While these are the main steps to making an impact in your new job there are a couple of guidelines for the new manager


  1. Dress well.
  2. Always show respect to everyone, you do not know where he or she fits in yet. Later show them respect, because they work for you, and you need them to do what they do.
  3. Document your accomplishments (you will need that for your probation review and performance reviews).
  4. Don’t threathen to, or fire people in your first few months in a company – try to find their strengths and work with them. It may take a long time to get a mandate to get new people.
  5. Study the company language. Most companies have a special set of codes and lingo, get to understand this quickly. Ask someone to explain it to you.
  6. Link yourself to some mentors and peers early on in the process.
  7. Don’t always adopt the customs of all the locals.
  8. Always be early for meetings. Ask in each meeting when the next meeting of this nature will be and ensure that you diarise it.
  9. Do any training available. Make sure that you attend any induction, training sessions or anything that is available. You need to study your new environment and training is usually a place where you can learn about the company.
  10. Know what the company does. Many executives never take the time to get to know what the company does at its lowest levels. Ensure that you get to see it – either by going when there is a delivery to a client or by having it demonstrated to you.





New challenges often create fear. This fear can characterise a new executives career, if it is not managed. Before taking on your next challenge sit down and put together a plan for yourself to manage that fear through planning the diagnosis, entry, delivery and exit. If you start with the end in mind, you will quickly find that the fear is gone, and you are working from a position of strength.


This methodology is not only for the first 100 days on a new job – but also for getting out of crisis, delivering on new challenges or taking on new markets.