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The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  17,444 ratings  ·  952 reviews
Since its original release, The First 90 Days has become the bestselling globally acknowledged bible of leadership and career transitions. In this updated and expanded 10th anniversary edition, internationally known leadership transition expert Michael D. Watkins gives you the keys to successfully negotiating your next move—whether you’re onboarding into a new company, bei ...more
Hardcover, Updated and Expanded Edition, 304 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published September 18th 2003)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Erika RS
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: leadership, owned
I think I must not be the target audience for this book because I found it dull. The book had a number of useful techniques but it was definitely targeted toward leaders in more traditional companies than my workplace. I would like to read a book with fundamentally the same content but written for folks in the more casual parts of the software industry.

Since I did find the book useful but boring, I include a detailed summary below.

The first 90 days after a transition are critical for establishin
Nov 17, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, let's put it this way: if you need this book, then you obviously have no place in managing anything, and your pet goldfish is probably already dead out of neglect and lack of food.

Really?? Is this one of the best business books of the last years? Published by Harvard Press? For the love of god... As Dilbert would say, I was blinded by the obvious time and again and got tired of the oh-so-original (NOT!) charts and diagrams very soon. What practical advice the author gives could have been s
Apr 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm very skeptical of business books - I see them as slightly more serious versions of Get Rich Quick books and Self Help books. But this was actually helpful. As someone who's worked in less traditional office and business settings, starting a new job in a real organization would be a very different experience. The First 90 Days provided some productive ways of thinking about how offices and coworker and boss relationships work. It also gave strategies of thinking about how to hit the ground ru ...more
Bob Selden
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a keen student of new manager behaviour always on the lookout for new ideas, I picked up “The First 90 Days” with great anticipation. Michael Watkins sets out to provide new managers (he calls them “leaders”) with a 90 day plan for taking over in a new role. There’s lots to recommend this book. There’s also lots to question.

In “The First 90 Days”, the author stresses the importance of building momentum during the critical transition phase from new manager to successful manager. A 90 day acce
Alex Duncan
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A must for people in career transition.
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The First 90 Days is now one of my favorites, right up there with Leadership 2.0 (a must-read for leaders). This book is a great and practical guide to help any leader transition into a new job, position, and organization—within 90 days (a critical timeframe to be considered as “hitting the ground running”). There’s a checklist at the end of every chapter to help you absorb key lessons, apply them to your situation, and tailor them to your own transition plan. The book is loaded with practical s ...more
Kristine Morris
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
If I was transitioning into a more senior role and I read this book, I think I'd quit before I even got started. There's a lot of organizational development, change management, people management, knowledge management, to scare anyone off - especially if you are trying to get a handle on these things in the first 90 days! While it proposes that the 90 day strategy is useful for managers at all levels, it is skewed towards senior levels and Watkins' advice "even if this doesn't apply to you, read ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The First 90 Days is focused on providing proven strategies for effectively getting through transitions from one job to another job or one company to another. The book is marketed at professionals in all levels of an organization, but there is a secondary emphasis on those in a leadership role. Don’t let that worry you if you are not in a formal leadership role. This book will still be helpful for you. I have read this book when I moved from a management position in one company to another. I rea ...more
Robert Chapman
The saying goes that you have 90 days in a new job or position to make an impact and demonstrate competence. This book is all about how to create and execute against a 90 day plan to ensure a successful transition.

Four specific types of transitions are covered in detail with examples of both success and failure and the conditions which contributed to the end result.

The four types of transitions are called the STaRS model:
• start-up
• turnaround
• re-alignment
• sustaining success

Each of these trans
Nina Ive
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
This was recommended to me over a year ago and as I am preparing for a next step career move I thought I would give it a go. I found it easy to read and immensely practical. In most instances the examples are obvious. Like when you know in your head the types of things you should do, but you end up just forgetting and reverting to normal behaviour!

This book is designed to give a structured approach to changing that behaviour, setting you up for success. Each chapter has a summary of points, lot
Ashraf Bashir
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a book! It's a management encyclopedia, not only for onboarding to new positions, but for later challenges as well! Every chapter contains tons of gems, no lengthy stories, no theoretical speeches, no rosy-world where angels are singing around, instead you get detailed explanation backed up with strong practical and pragmatic reason, based on long experience in management. A real treasure that I will read again and again. Won't help unless you are above middle level of management (manager o ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015, work
Obviously, I should circle back and review this book more thoroughly in a few months. But it seemed useful to me. When you start a new job as an individual contributor, you mostly have to figure out the subject material and your boss, which is relatively straightforward and can unfold at its own pace. But if you have direct reports, you need to figure out what you're doing, what you should ask them to do, how to operate in a new culture, how much to change how fast, and how to work with your pee ...more
Steve Sarner
Dec 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
This was a helpful book. It validated many things I already knew but did not offer too many new ideas. The systems and processes recommended for getting started are generally simple common sense approaches.

That said, I think it is a great book for someone earlier in their career. I really could have used this many years ago when I inherited a senior team with a promotion. It offers sound and practical advice for situations of this nature and many others. It is a very solid read for a first time
Said AlMaskery
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
One of the best books to read when you go through a career shift!
Scott Maclellan
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By the time I finished chapter 2, I already knew this was one of the best books I have ever read.

In the weeks since I started reading it, I have reread almost every chapter with both audiobook and e-book. This was to reinforce the takeaways and keep my own 90 day plan on track as I embark on my first manager job.

While it is still applicable to a first time manager, it is likely best suited to more senior managers switching between companies. The examples are primarily managers of managers. Restr
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Quite uninteresting and superficial, approaching a variety of topics broadly, without sufficient focus. Perhaps this just wasn't a book for me - I am afraid I didn't get any insightful tips from this book. It was okay, there was nothing wrong with the book per say, it just wasn't for me. In my opinion, its target audience being deemed as leaders is a bit strange. Regardless of position and role, these tips genuinely apply to everyone making a career transition - we all want to have a positive, s ...more
Rafael Rosa
## TL;DR
Provides some structure to how to approach a new management job, with useful "reminder lists", but nothing out of this world. If you're new to management or looking to improve your political skills on higly hierarchical organizations it might be useful. The author is too forceful trying to sell his ideas and focus a lot on adapting to the environment and only rock the boat when needed, which is an approach I dislike.

## Opinion
Not bad as management books go, he provides useful check-lists
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, own-kindle, business
Mostly VP-Level Advice

The book starts with valuable questions and understanding that every job seeker should consider. I'd suggest using this material directly when interviewing possible employers.

There is information and tools throughout the book for us looking to set off on the best foot at our new job and find the cadence of our coworkers and business. But if we are not in a senior leadership position then the trail markers are not all there and we’ll be putting in extra miles to find content
Robin Peake
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work, management
A super helpful book at a time of transition. Gave me permission to do things differently.
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This seemed pretty obvious to me? Seems like basic social skills and tact with the exception of STARS which I rather enjoyed - understanding who you are as it relates to what kind of job you excel at.

accelerating growth
sustain success
Pei Koon
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Common sensical book but it's easy for people to miss the key points that Watkins puts forward when they are in the midst of a tumultuous phase such as a transition. Definitely very useful for people entering the business world, but I can see some phrases and some generalized lessons applicable for everyone.
Emily Polson
Feb 08, 2019 added it
Shelves: self-help
I never would have picked this up on my own, but my dad sent it to me because he thought it might be helpful as I transitioned to my new job. In the spirit of father-daughter relationships, I read it--and surprisingly found it more helpful than I expected, considering it was written for managers and I just started a job as an assistant. Here were a few of my takeaways:

On onboarding:
-You won't succeed in your new position just "by continuing to do what you did in your previous job only more so"--
Vinod Peris
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book by my boss at Cisco, Shailesh Shukla, when I took on a new role as head of engineering for MARSBU. If you are curious about the acronym, yes, it is the Business Unit from MARS. I opened the book and randomly landed on page 115 which had a section titled "Educate your Boss"; that definitely made this a must read.

The book is definitely a quick read and I had to pace myself so that I don't read it all in a couple of sittings and quickly forget all that I had read. There are so
Sebastian Gebski
TBH it looks a bit corpo-ish: personally I wouldn't reach for it, but it was a recommendation.

Content-wise, it's better than expected - it depicts an approach (w/o building over-sophisticated "frameworks" or "toolkits") to effectively enter the new role/position. It doesn't focus on any particular industry or position, but surprisingly: it's not an issue. The first few chapters totally grasp it - all the trickiest aspects: building relationships, adjusting to the context (STARS model), sane expe
Shahine Ardeshir
Three separate individuals – on hearing that I was moving into a new organization – recommended that I read this book. And very shortly into it, I could see why.

This book is, quite simply, an excellent do-it-yourself manual for anyone who’s moving roles, either within or outside their current organization. It is a simple read, that doesn’t need flowery language or complicated models to give it credibility. It’s based on a lot of extremely solid research. And most importantly, it lays out, chapte
Yevgeniy Brikman
Dec 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Did not finish.

Got about one-fourth of the way through, realized I was bored out of my mind and not learning anything, and gave up. It was one platitude after another, completely obvious advice, checklists that were neither complete nor useful, advice that only applied to massive, old school corporations, and generic business jargon.

Here's an example of "the essential transition tasks" from early in the book:

* Prepare yourself.
* Accelerate your learning.
* Match your strategy to the situation.
* S
Chris Russell
The First 90 Days
A review of an excellent tool for transitioning into new roles
I recently have been going through some career transitions. As part of this I’m necessarily engaging in new roles with new organizations in different capacities. I did what we always do when we wonder if anyone else has found a solution to this challenge. I googled it. I mean, why recreate the wheel if best practices already exist in the public domain? Is there a cheat sheet?
It turns out there is.
This is how I came a
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was great. Very concise, and extremely well organized. From soup to nuts, it provides excellent guidance for those who find themselves in a new position of leadership within an organization. Chapter by chapter, Watkins provides effective tools for diagnosing specific types of leadership crises/ oppotunities and helpful suggestions for negotiating a path to success. I found the anecdotes he provided to be extremely helpful and not cheesy or inappropriate, as is often the case with a lot ...more
Vince Wu
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I think you'll find this book by Watkins quite disappointing if you're expecting some extraordinary insight on how to successfully take on a new role. This book isn't a summary of theory backed up by research. Nor is it a collection of motivating war stories.

This book is much more suitable if treated as a checklist. Assuming you agree that having a strategy is critical to successfully transitioning to a new role, how do you go about formulating this strategy? How do you make sure you've consider
Michelle Riffer
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: New managers, leaders, those about to transition into leadership role
A fantastic book for anyone newly in a position, or to prepare for moving into a position - great prep for a promotion. Teaches how to have big wins early on to set yourself up for success; also discusses inheriting a team and when/how to make changes.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it highly to anyone about to enter a transition period in their career, especially when taking on new challenges. I've lent my copy out so many times the pages are dog-eared throughout and it seems to be a w
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