The 90 day point at your new job is a milestone. You’re at the “end of the beginning” of your new job. At this point the expectations of your manager, your new colleagues and staff (if applicable) will be heightened. Are you progressing or failing? How do you know?

A good question to ask during your interview is After 90 days, how will you know I’m doing a good job? While you will revisit their answer during your first 90 days, that answer forms the 90 day milestone where you will assess your success to-date.

In addition to the 90 day question, an Early Win, often not found in their 90-day answer, can go a long way in building your credibility, good relationships and momentum to carry you beyond the 90 day milestone.

Early Win

One technique is to identify potential early wins. You may uncover these during your learning phase. When a potential early win is discovered, ensure your new manager, and to an extent, your peers and staff are on the same page. Your first win needs predetermined measurable success criteria and short-term milestone successes.

Each early-win-project contains the following phases:

  • Learning
  • Designing the Change
  • Rallying support
  • Implementation
  • Learning from change

The Best Early Win

The best wins are tangible improvements saving money, time or resources. Ambitious (e.g.) fundamental changes in strategy, structure, processes or skill sets, should be avoided as there is potential for the company’s self-defense mechanisms kicking-in as discussed in the On-boarding Risks. It goes without saying to avoid early losses. It is exceedingly difficult to recover from an early loss.

The priorities for an early win should balance the learned needs of the company and your career goals, which you found were in alignment during the interview phase.

Sometimes an early win identifies itself as a ticking time bomb. As you represent a fresh set of eyes, you are often the best suited to identify these. Your learning plan is comparable to being a detective, something unique to the company. Different parts of the company may have different components of the puzzle and you may be the only person equipped to assemble the pieces. Simply by identifying a time bomb may equate to an early win.

Where to find Early Wins

Likely source Internal politics, departments not communicating effectively creating opportune conditions for problems. Fortunately for you, you have no political baggage and therefore are unbiased.
Probable source Internal capabilities or lack thereof. For example, problems or gaps with skill sets, processes or product quality issues or dissatisfied customers.
Potential source Changing market conditions, new competitors or a failing strategy. Regarding competition, is your product overpriced, inferior, or a new competitive product.
Unlikely source New government regulations, economic conditions, health and safety aspects of your product.

When / if you identify a problem, you must take action:

  • Generate awareness and conversation of the problem.
  • Figure it out. Tactically what should the business do to avoid the problem?
  • Big picture. Strategically what should the business do to avoid this problem in the future?
  • Plan. Have a plan to address the problem
  • Support. Ensure others are on-board to address the problem.

A Word about People Behavioral Changes

During your on-boarding you’re identifying behavioral traits of the people. If you’re in a management position, you need to decide if these behaviors are beneficial to creating or sustaining a high-performance team or not. Look for these positive characteristics in people:

Focus Do they have priorities or too many priorities? Having too many priorities is demoralizing as they know they can’t all be achieved.
Discipline Do they attain a consistent level of performance?
Innovation Are improvements consistently sought after? Are we pushing the envelope?
Teamwork Is the team playing nice together? Are people hording knowledge? Are individuals more apt to recognize group achievements over self?
Sense of Urgency Are customer needs being ignored in favor maintaining the safe status quo?

During your first win project, you should begin to instill new methods of behaviours in the business (if warranted).


From your first day you’re being accessed and impressions are being formulated. If you’re not making positive progress, opinions will be negative.

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