Rebecca Paddock needed a way to prepare for her move from a test engineer job to a systems engineer position. So, inspired by the 100-day plans U.S. presidents historically use when they first take office, she developed a list of tasks to tackle.
"I used it as a preparation process for the interviews, and when I got the job, I had a framework in place," says Paddock, who now works in Plano, Texas, as a program manager and director of Six Sigma at Raytheon Co.
U.S. presidents aren't the only leaders who plan for their first few months on the job. Most corporate executives, including CIOs, use 90- or 100-day plans, too.
But Paddock knows that these road maps for successful transitions shouldn't be exclusive to the C-suite.
"The more you can have a vision of how you're going to get from Point A to Point B, and to know what Point B is, the more successful you're going to be, even at a junior level," says Matt Hartzman, vice president of IS at the College of American Pathologists in Northfield, Ill.
So for anyone getting ready to start a new position at any level in IT, here are five action items to use as a guide for your own 100-day plan:
1. Assess the situation.
Companies want new talent to bring something to the table. If IT is running smoothly, they want you to help move the organization forward. If something's wrong, they want you to help fix it.
It's best to determine the organization's needs early on, says Sue Leboza, group vice president of IT for the pharmaceutical products group at Abbott Laboratories, a health care company in Abbott Park, Ill. "If you don't ask or don't know, you could be working on the wrong things for your first 100 days," Leboza says.
Here are a few tips to make your 100-day plan work more smoothly:
* Write it down. "I have never seen anybody do this successfully without writing it down. You'll forget things, or you'll add things that weren't originally intended," says Rebecca Paddock, a program manager and director of Six Sigma at Raytheon.
* Schedule action items. Use a week-by-week breakdown, Paddock suggests. "I believe it's paramount, because if it's month by month, you'll get sucked in by the fires, and you'll come to the end of the month and realize you can't get [your plan] done," she says.
* Be flexible. Many parts of a transition plan overlap, so you'll need to adapt your action items as you gain new information.
Consult with your peers, your team members, your supervisors and any other stakeholders to help you develop the most complete assessment.
2. Determine expectations.
You need to know how your boss defines success for your position. But to find out, you need to both ask and observe, says Michael D. Watkins, co-founder of Genesis Advisers LLC, a leadership development company, and author of the The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels (Harvard Business School Press, 2003).
"There's the direct set of conversations you need to have, asking, 'What am I expected to accomplish?' And there are other more subtle expectations that aren't spoken, so you need to identify someone who exemplifies success at your new level and figure out what contributes to that," Watkins explains.
3. Identify stakeholders and build alliances.
Of course, you want to get to know your peers and supervisors. But to truly succeed, you also need to identify the individuals who will directly and indirectly affect your ability to get the job done, says Caela Farren, founder and CEO of MasteryWorks Inc., a career and talent management consulting firm in Falls Church, Va.