Your First 100 Days


I was teaching a set of people principles of intrapreneurship and at the end of the class, some one came up and asked me for help. He said that he has got a new role as a product manager in his current organisation and is not sure what he can do in the first 100 days to help put him on the path of success in his new role. Here is the advice I had for him.

Be a Visionary Leader:

This works if you are being brought into the role from outside of the organisation. One reason why this is done is to infuse new ideas and vision into an already mature or a struggling product. If you know that this is the case, then you may want to play the role of a visionary leader. You need to know enough about the product and its target market so as to come up with a bold new vision for the product. You need to be ready with a clear action plan for the first 30 days, 60 days and 90 days and communicate the same with confidence.

Be a Student:

If you know that you have not been brought in to shake things up, there are two approaches (Inside-out and Outside-In)that you can take to learn about your product and the people building, marketing and selling the product.
Inside-out approach to learn:
When taking this approach, you need to try to absorb all kinds of information about the following:
  • The product: What were the core decisions that made the product what it is today? Why were they made? Who made them? How is the product sold? How is development decisions being made? And everything else (technology, architecture, marketing, branding, etc)
  • The people making the product: Who are the key stake holders? What is each one of their traits? Are they data driven or gut driven or driven by customer feedback? How open are they for change? What are their aspirations? Who works best with each of them? What can you learn from stuff that these stake holders approve about their preferences?
  • The people marketing the product: How do they market the product? Do they highlight something specific about the product? How do they find prospects? Where do they find the prospects?
  • The people who sell the product: What aspects of the product do the sales folks use to position the product? Is it consistent with the way the product is marketed/created? If not, why? What kinds of conversations do the sales teams have with the customers? How long is the typical sales cycle?
Outside-in approach to learn:
Understand everything about the customer that the product is being made for.
  • What are they using the product for?
  • What delights/irritates them about the product?
  • What is the job that the product is doing?
  • How easy is it for these customers to discover/purchase/use the product?
  • Who is your competition – not just direct competition but indirect as well (using the jobs-to-be-done framework)? Where do they find their prospects?
  • Would they miss your product if it is gone? Why?

In Conclusion:

Ideally, you would need to do all three, but the sequence in which you do them may depend on a variety of factors. How customer centric is your organisation, how open it is for change, why have you been brought in (to disrupt or to maintain the status quo), how well aligned the organisational parts are and most importantly, where your comfort level lies. While I have created this for a product manager, you could use the same checklist if you were a CEO or a business unit head to plan your first 100 days in your new role.