Why Do We Fail in First 90 Days?

From Employee perspective, there are several aspects that lead to a unsuccessful start

  1. Job vs expectation.
  2. Relationship with boss.
  3. Lack of training.

While from Company side, they have a different view on that:

  1. Poor performance.
  2. Poor punctuality. not able to be on time.
  3. Absenteeism. Not even be able to show up.

First 90 days into a new role is not just the paperwork and basic induction, like training and meeting and greets. On the other hand, it’s supposed to be how you become fully integrated and supported so that you can perform well.

In other word, the top priority for your first 90 days is to

PROVE you can


VALUE your role is

EXPECTED to deliver

6 Steps to Success

  1. Lay foundations. Connecting with your manager and setting expectations.
  2. Understand your role. Understand more deeply and connecting with your colleagues
  3. Select priority projects. We select several priority projects with measurable outcomes.
  4. Develop a plan. Putting a plan of action together to complete them.
  5. Execute and deliver. We work through the plan to deliver results.
  6. Communicate success & your brand. We communicate your successes and establish your brand.

Step 1 - Lay Foundations

According to survey, 72% response mentioned 1-on-1 time with their manager was the most important part of their onboarding period.

If your manager haven’t set up, you need to speak with your manager setting up regular 1-on-1 meetings ideally weekly.

If would be great if both of you work from a clear agenda that you both agree to, but make sure include these two following items:

  1. What I have been working on? This is where you’ve been spent your time.
  2. What I will be working on next? This is where you plan to spend your time.

You should always be structured and clear in these discussions, so make sure you know and write things down, get yourself prepared before the 1-on-1 session with your manager, and try to stick to the agenda in your discussion.

Here are few things to do and watch out when you in these meetings

  1. Spending the first couple of minutes connecting with your manager, getting to know then better, and allowing them to know you better.
  2. When discussing about items that you are working on
    1. you want to touch on these items you have completed, highlighting all the little wins and successes to keep them in the loop.
    2. but also to let them know that you’re getting things done and you’re doing these things well.
    3. You also want to mention where you might have some unresolved difficulties to get their advice, and make sure you ask questions that might have come up during the week.
  3. When it comes to what you’ll be working next
    1. you want to let them know how you intend to tackle these things
    2. again keep them in the loop, but also invite them offer you guidance and be your coach.
    3. We subtly nudge your manager to get what we need from them.

New Role in Current Company If you are starting a new role in your current company, you also want to include your progress of letting go your old job and previous responsibilities, and make sure you include that as another agenda item.

Letting go your old tasks and not being distracted by people coming to you with questions or actions that you should no longer be taking care of is one of the most important things you need to do as quickly as possible.

Setting Expectation We live complex lives with competing priorities, families, logistical issues, illnesses, and all of that. But the good news is fortunately most people and most managers these days acknowledge these, and are quite willing to come to a reasonable solution.

You need to discuss these issues, you need to make then known upfront and set expectations so there are no surprises. This happens a lot and it can often be solved with a frank honest conversation if it’s done in the right way and well in advance. If you are afraid this is not going to go well, you are only making matters worse by not communicating.

Step 2 - Understand Your Role

Remember one of the reasons why you leave your previous job is because of a disconnect of your expectation and the reality of what you are actually doing.

What you think about your role may be what’s even been told to you by the hiring manager, and the truth about what your role really is can sometimes be very different from one and another.

By understanding your role better and doing this as quickly as possible you can identify specific issues or concerns, and you can raise them if you have to.

By understanding better about your role you’ll be able to identify and focus on few things that are going to drive most of the value for the company and not spend too much time on things that are just not important in the scheme of things.

The easiest way to understand your role is to talk to people. Nowadays we are working as a team, and our work is just a proportion of a bigger process, colleagues from upstream and downstream are our stakeholders, and we need to find these key stakeholders, to understand their role, and how they fit into the upstream and downstream process.

Here is a set of questions that you can use when discussing with your stakeholders:

  1. Name & Date
  2. What is your role about? How long you’ve been with the company? How long you’ve been in their current role?
  3. What are your priorities?
  4. What are the specific dependencies that relying on my role?
  5. What are generally done well? What could be done better?
  6. 1 ~ 2 tailored questions depending on the role
  7. Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you feel I need to know?
  8. Who else do you think I should be meeting with?
  9. Action list
    1. Action 1 (What, Who, When)
    2. Action 2 (What, Who, When)
    3. Action 3 (What, Who, When)

There are some practical tips that you can consider:

  1. Try to meet your stakeholders with 1-on-1. You are trying to build up relationship with them at this stage, and people are generally much more inclined to be candid if it’s 1-on-1.
  2. Print out these templated questions, and hand write these answers in these meetings. The reason is that the computer is a physical barrier between you and someone you’re trying to know better. Because they cannot see what you’re typing, it’s not the best way to establish trust.

Step 3 - Select Priority Projects

Step 4 - Develop a Plan

Step 5 - Execute and Deliver

Step 6 - Communicate Success & Your Brand


If you get lost in the middle, just try to think about your priority for the first 90 days:

PROVE you can DELIVER the VALUE your role is EXPECTED to deliver.

General rule of thumb:

Set expectations upfront so there are NO SURPRISES.

Action List

  • Understand the organisational structure
    • Where you fit in, who you should communicate with, and how frequently to communicate with them.