Nearly half of leadership transitions fail. This isn’t unlike hearing that half of all marriages end in divorce; usually, a bitter taste is left in the mouths of the manager, organisation and direct report after a failed transition, and interest in doing it again is negligent.
The 30-60-90-day management plan is a framework for the first three months in a new managerial role. It helps set managers up to succeed with a step-by-step plan that links personal goal-setting to business strategy.
How to write one, what to include and a 30-60-90 day management plan template are all included in this article.
What is a 30-60-90 day management plan?
The 30-60-90 day management plan outlines what a new manager hopes to achieve in their first 30, 60 and 90 days in their role. It serves as a plan of action with short-term performance goals aimed at making their onboarding smooth but impactful.
Why is a 30-60-90 day management plan important?
A 30-60-90 day plan acts as a safeguard against new job anxiety at best and poor performance at worst. It also creates a more deliberate entry point for your transition, mapping impact beyond the job description.
For many organisations, this is what they’re looking for in a leader or manager. You are the conduit between strategy and performance. Failing to connect with your team and effectively translate business goals to everyday work can mean getting a lashing from both sides. It’s a flow on effect with the following not-so-desirable milestones.
- If you don’t find a way to invest in relationships with your direct reports, you lose your greatest asset. (And all you really have is your people.)
- But your team finds a common enemy.
- When it drops, productivity can lag for as long as five years.
- Your relationship with your manager may not be as strong—meaning you might not be able to lean on them when you need.
- If you’re seen as ineffective, peers in management may go around or above you rather than building partnerships.
That’s the worst case scenario. The good news is that a 30-60-90 day management plan foresees the challenges many first-time managers face.
- Developing a leader’s mindset. It’s shift to serve your former peers as a boss and manage new, often strategic responsibilities.
- Assuming authority. With great power comes great responsibility, but it’s not always a smooth transition to having the final say.
- Identifying capability gaps. What makes for an individual contributor doesn’t always translate to great leadership. You should expect and prepare for capability gaps to emerge.
- Prioritisation. The goal of a manager is to develop their team to eventually take tasks off their hands. You can easily spend all your time doing everything—and not much at all—if you’re not clear about where your focus is best spent.
A big part of this equation is contextual learning. Given new leaders are busy folks, only relevant content need be made available to them by mapping the capabilities they need to develop.
Linking performance and development is the exact thing a performance learning management system (PLMS) can help do. We pioneered the PLMS at Acorn to enable learners (in this case, new leaders) to master the specific capabilities that’ll accelerate their performance, and thereby, the organisation’s.
The trap of a 30-60-90 day plan
90 days is usually the standard probation or grace period for a new role (and it can even stretch to 180 beyond executive levels). But reaching full productivity in your first three months shouldn’t be the end goal.
McKinsey found that 92% of external hires and 72% of internal hires take more than 90 days to get to full speed. A 90-day management transition should be focused on taking stock and action in a handful of areas, not all of them.
Don’t fall into the trap of planning to hit ridiculous goals. It only sets you up to fail and shows the higher ups you can’t effectively strategise. Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, says that the time period is simply critical for setting good habits and making efficient and effective use of your time—not to achieve everything you possibly can as a leader in 90 days. The world will keep turning on Day 91.
When to write a 30-60-90 day management plan
There are two instances where you may create or be asked to create a 30-60-90 day plan.
The first is for an interview. You’d use it show understanding of the role, organisation and its strategy. Look at it like you’re telling the story of what you’d achieve in the role: How do your qualifications and the requirements for the role align? If there are gaps, explain how you’ll use those first few months to bridge. It’s often also on the candidate to present this plan in an interview, so consider how you’d weave it into the conversation.
The second is during the first week in the role. The hiring manager might map it out for the employee, but it shows proactivity if you create one yourself.
Best practices for a 30-60-90 day management plan
Your plan will be your own, but there are some ways to get the most of the learning phase of your new job.
- Connect your plan to strategy
- Create tactical goals
- Account for change and hurdles.
Look at the bigger picture
This is where you build credibility. If you’re an external hire, you’re likely starting from zero. Even stepping from IC to people leader will mean you have to prove yourself. Understanding the forces at play beyond your role will enable you to make more strategic goals.
Consider the personal challenges of the role, like:
- Starting in a new industry
- Starting in a new company
- Starting in a new team in the same company
- Receiving a promotion
- Taking on a newly created role.
And know what pain point you are addressing for the organisation.
- Taking a new business from zero
- Turn a failing initiative or business around
- Support rapid growth
- Reenergise a complacent initiative or business
- Sustain success.
Set clear, measurable goals
A new job is not just about you. You are trying to help your team achieve their goals. If you make your personal goals reflective of their outcomes, you’ll win more respect and make more of an impact. The company’s key performance metrics will also help you set your own performance metrics.
The SMART goal is useful here. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound milestones keep you true to the team’s existing strategy when setting goals. “Better Google Analytics strategy” isn’t a SMART goal, but “Within the first 60 days, identify top call-to-actions and implement them across top 10 ranking webpages” is. You can better measure success at the end of the 30-60-90 day plan this way, too.
If all else fails, Michael Watkins recommends focusing on technical, cultural and political learnings.
- Political: Do your own competitive research to understand how the organisation differs in their market.
- Technical: Set easy but strategic wins. Think team KPIs.
- Cultural: If you’re moving from peer to manager, consider how you’ll transition from influencer to authority while maintaining respect.
You should assume that the dynamics of the role, team and business environment may hinder goal realisation. For example: A team member may unexpectedly leave just a few weeks into your new role. Their replacement will have to be allowed time to get up to speed, which may impact the resources you have for a goal. Adaptability is a function of strategic thinking, which is in turn a crucial leadership skill.
Part of adaptability is allowing for course correction—and also coming to terms with the fact you aren’t going to change the world in 90 days. (See The trap of a 30-60-90 day plan above again.)
How to write your 30-60-90 day plan
Think of it as month-long sprints. Not sprints as in marathons, sprints as in project management. Sprint planning defines what needs to be done and how it will be achieved in a certain timeframe.
So, break your plan down by its name: 30, 60 and 90 days.
First 30 days
Consider your first month as a new manager about building relationships and learning tactical knowledge. This is about lessening a new role’s learning curve.
Your best course of action is conversation. A new team will likely have just as much fear as you, which makes one-on-ones a great way to get to know your team on both a professional and personal level. Weekly catch-ups help uncover the team’s work style; some will enjoy blunt feedback, while others prefer to have instructions over-explained.
Even if you’ve assumed a role with familiar faces, you’ll need to understand how your own team’s processes are carried out so you can better strategically support them. There may be latent problems that could turn into future fires.
At the very least, you want to identify the core activities that create value. Hard data is also useful here. Financial and operational reports, customer sentiments and employee surveys create patterns in company culture and behaviour.
30 – 60 days
Now is when you can start to apply what you’ve learned and aim for those easy wins. Start thinking operationally; any initiatives you set for yourself in this time should be more strategic than the scene-setting goals in the first month. Say you gathered that the marketing team don’t have a central source of information, but you see a chance to make their knowledge transfer more efficient with a central wiki.
Setting goals that benefit others—not just company goals—is a good way to show your commitment as team lead. As long as you’re not challenging the status quo, you can secure influence.
60 – 90 days
Around about now is when you reach a break-even point. Look at your original KPIs. How is the marketing team’s wiki paying off? What proportion of time are they spending searching for information now? What tools have you implemented to understand their usage of the site?
At this point, you should also know what your personal and the team’s development needs are going forward. You should have identified your high potentials and who needs some coaching. Highlighting skills gaps shows you are looking to eliminate bottlenecks to the company’s mission. Schedule a check in with your manager at the end of the 90 days to discuss your progress and training needs.
30-60-90 day management plan template
You can structure your plan in almost anyway you like. Our free template includes four key elements for a complete action:
- Initiative to realise that goal
- Performance goals for the first 30 days, easy wins at 60 days, and deliverables at 90
- Key stakeholders to lean on or learn from.
There are many unknowns associated with stepping into a new leadership position, whether you’ve had experience in management before or not. What if you can’t adapt fast? If you’re starting in a new organisation, how does BAU differ to previous cultures? How does one transition into managing their former peers?
A 30-60-90 day plan is the workaround. It acts as a framework for success in a new manager role, outlining the goals that will have an impact beyond core job responsibilities.
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