I've been asked this question a few times at interviews. I know that a good answer depends on the job but I was curious what others might say. Assume position is a VP/CFO position at a small/medium size private company.
It's a general question that, from my perspective, requires specifics of the position to answer. Job title aside, if you aren't speaking to solving the company's problems, your answer probably doesn't matter.
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New manager first 90 days:
#1 - Get to know the company people (who are the decision makers and drivers)
#2 - Get to know the customers
#3 - Get to know the products/services
In your first few weeks your job will include the things your new employer wants you to learn or train on.
If your role is higher level such as manager, you will want to spend time understanding the real reason they hired you. What problem do they expect you to solve in your first 6 months on the job. This entails interviewing all your management counterparts in other areas of the company so you can develop a sense of how they see things, so that when you propose a solution you will do so from an informed position and from the standpoint of someone who is seen as someone who can help.
Experience will help you, but if you have relatively little experience, relationships are the place to start. Ask a lot of questions about who you should get to know. The faster you start talking to others the faster you will be accepted into your role and the faster you will begin to contribute as a knowledgable insider.
This advice works if you are a new college grad or if you are a Forturne 50 CFO.
It depends on the job I for which you are hired. As a manager, the first thing I would do is have each of my employees give me a "resume" of their position (what they do, what they've accomplished, what they like/dislike about their job, and what they would do to improve their job and the firm). I would also ask for a list of outstanding projects and timeline for each in order to prioritize the workload and see how these projects fit the company's strategic goals. As a new employee, you want to start off well and make a good first impression on both your staff and your own superiors by showing you can take charge quickly and effectively.
I have found the following to work well when asked the question. Read it in the book Right From The Start (Ciampa?)
In the interview process it is usually pretty safe to say that even though I've done a lot of research I still "Dont know what I don't know". I subtly make that point and tell the interviewer, given that, I use a four step process of Taking Hold, Immersion, Visioning and Coalition Building. At one or all of those stages, I should get a pretty clear picture of the environment and how to move forward.
I always meet with the employees 1:1. You'll learn more about the key issues facing the company from these meetings than from any report.
I would agree that one of the first tasks to complete would be to meet with your staff 1:1. On my first day as a controller with a private company I met with the accounting and payroll members to introduce myself and to get to know them. I mostly listened, but did go over my general management philosophy and approach.
Get, read, apply the principles in "The First 90 Days" by Michael Watkins. It's a GREAT resource (I have no connection with the author or the book). Good luck!
Meet face to face with staff and peers. Agree with Tim. You will learn enough to keep you busy for days.
If this is an interview question, your interviewer does not want you to tell him what you will do first in order for you to learn about the people and the job. He wants to know what you will do first to add value to the business. The point of the question is to ascertain your ability to identify and prioritize what really matters and to determine your understanding of the position and responsibilities you will be taking on.
Great advice from Edward Abbbati, Tim Rodgers and David Mansfield. I worked for a retailer several years ago with an entirely new management team who turned a high cost operator into a company reporting double digit earnings growth. Although the Board of Directors expected change, the management team exceeded their expectations. The CEO spent his first 90 days in the stores and then reported to the corporate office to develop the strategy and infrastructure to improve operations. The investment community and the executive team who reported to him attributed much of the success of the turnaround to the CEO's ability to know when to push for change and when to drawback . . . knowledge he gained during his first 90 days.
It is key to determine quickly the current trends of the business. From a financial perspective, are things moving in the right or wrong direction, and why? Are margins getting better or worse? If worse, is it due to pricing or costs? If things are improving and growing, how is the cash balance doing, how is A/R?
Regardless of how the company is doing, there could be trouble of some kind bearing down (again speaking of the financial health of the business), and the new CFO better figure that out right away and recommend action.
After getting to know the staff and how things operate, report back to the CEO on what you have found and what changes/ actions you plan to take and get CEO feedback.
First you listen, then you reflect and only then you take action.
I would definitely say the first thing would be to listen. Get to know your department(s), their people, and how they do things. Learn as much as you can about what and why. Then you can move on to implementing changes, if necessary.
I have had managers who come in with a change agenda. They never took the time to listen and learn, so changes were met with resistance, but also weren't as effective in the long run as it could have been.
Listen, build trust, share ideas and listen. Get to know people and be genuine!
Recommend HIGHLY this book.
The First 90 Days - Michael Watkins
Excellent book! Available on Amazon
One thing I like is that it talks about coming into a new organization, as well as being promoted.
I think in the first 90 days you should begin a Business Process Mapping program. This will a) explain how everything works according to those who do the job, not other managers, b) identify possible stovepipes and c) be a way to develop team work in finding ways to streamline processes.
It develops teamwork, acknowledges competence and forges interpersonal relationships.
Proformative courses by Wayne Spivak:
Knowing me, I would totally say this to an interviewer...."The whole 90 days will all be spent planning my coronation as King which would be on the 91st day."
On a more serious note : Listen, Observe, gain respect and build support/coalitions. You will need it on the 91st day.
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