The First 90 Days - Summary and Key Ideas

The First 90 Days is a guidebook for leaders in transition periods. It provides strategies to help leaders shorten the time they take to reach the 'breakeven point' — the point at which your organization needs you as much as you need the job.

Ideal for newly appointed leaders, management professionals, or anyone in the midst of career transition looking to understand their new role, build working relationships quickly, and establish momentum in the organization.

Buy the book
The First 90 Days

Key ideas


Successful leadership transitions hinge on strategic, context-specific approaches and early momentum.


Effective leadership transition requires self-promotion, strategic planning, and diverse networking.

Play in App

New leaders should invest in understanding their organization to avoid premature actions and costly mistakes.

Play in App

Effective leadership adapts to the business's current situation, as indicated by the STARS model.

Play in App

Navigating new roles demands strategic focus, context-specific actions, cultural adjustments, leadership alignment, and long-term consistency.

Play in App

Building effective relationships with new bosses is crucial for successful role transitions.

Play in App

Achieving organizational excellence requires strategic harmony among its key components.

Play in App

Assessing and refining team dynamics and processes is key to effective leadership.

Play in App

Successful leadership without authority involves strategic coalition-building and thoughtful persuasion techniques.

Play in App

Effective leadership during transitions relies on keeping your personal balance.

Play in App

Play in App

Play in App
Get the App!
Access all 11 key ideas for free! 🥳

Summary & Review

Final summary: "The First 90 Days" by Michael D. Watkins provides a comprehensive strategy for leaders transitioning into new roles. The book emphasizes that early actions can significantly impact future success, introducing the concept of a "breakeven point" where your organization benefits from you as much as you benefit from the job. Watkins' proposed methods aim to accelerate your arrival at this point, providing insights on how to understand your new environment, secure credibility, foster productive relationships, and more. He suggests dividing the first 90 days into three distinct periods for learning, planning, and execution, maintaining a strong focus on negotiation and strategic planning. Watkins' strategies are based on extensive research and his experience as an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School.

Michael D Watkins

Michael Watkins is an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, where he studies leadership and negotiation. Watkins has conducted years of research into leadership transitions at all levels and has designed transition programs for leading companies.

Explore more book summaries

Red Teaming

"Red Teaming" is a book about a system used by the military and intelligence agencies to stress-test strategies, probe for hidden threats, and make critical decisions, offering insights on how businesses and individuals can use similar techniques to overcome their own challenges.

Kitchen Confidential

The book Kitchen Confidential (2000) is about the wild and chaotic world of professional kitchens, as seen through the eyes of Anthony Bourdain, a renegade chef with a passion for good food, strong drinks, and even stronger personalities. With his signature wit and gritty storytelling, Bourdain takes readers on a thrilling ride through the highs and lows of the restaurant industry, from the seedy underbelly of New York City's kitchens to the glamorous world of high-end dining.

Experimentation Works

"Experimentation Works" is a book that explores the importance of experimentation in business, arguing that systematic and strategic testing can lead to significant improvements and innovations. It provides practical advice and real-world examples to guide businesses in implementing a culture of experimentation.

The Leading Edge

"The Leading Edge" is a business book that provides insights and strategies on how to stay competitive and innovative in the ever-changing business landscape. It offers practical advice on leadership, management, and how to drive growth in a company.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 discusses ways to increase your emotional quotient (EQ) for personal and professional success. It provides insight into four critical EQ skills - self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management, and gives practical strategies for improving these areas of emotional intelligence. The book underscores the importance of EQ in effective decision making, high performance, and leadership.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) is about unleashing your inner potential by adopting seven key habits that will transform your life. Stephen Covey shares powerful insights and practical strategies that will help you become more productive, fulfilled, and successful in all aspects of your life.