Book Review

The First 90 Days

Reviewed by Paul A. Shaw
White County School District,
Cleveland, Ga.

The actions taken during the first three months of your new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail. The stakes are obviously high. The First 90 Days discusses important challenges that leaders encounter when they enter new senior-level positions or transition into new environments.

While this book is written with business executives in mind, many of the suggestions are pertinent for principals, superintendents and central-office administrators. Michael Watkins, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, says systematic methods can be used by leaders to succeed in their job transitions. For each individual who advances into a new position of leadership, there are many others whose performance is affected–direct reports, bosses and peers.

This book provides a road map for creating your 90-day plan. Waters lays out 10 key challenges during a transition period. These include promoting yourself, accelerating your learning, matching strategies to situations, securing early wins, negotiating successes, achieving alignment, building your team, creating coalitions, keeping your balance and helping everyone accelerate his or her transition.

The First 90 Days is for new leaders at all levels but particularly appropriate for principals or superintendents transitioning to new jobs. It provides many examples and frames useful questions at the end of each chapter to stimulate thought. Formulating a plan of action for the first 90 days on the job definitely will improve one’s chances of succeeding in a new workplace.

(The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass., 2003, 253 pp., $24.95 hardcover)