5 mins
You have 0 further articles remaining this month. Join LeadDev.com for free to read unlimited articles.

Landed a new manager position? Congratulations! Here's how to plan for your first days in the role.

Feb 7 to April 18, 2023 Group leadership course
graphic element

Building and growing teams

Build, sustain, and scale healthy and happy teams

Starting a new job as an engineering manager can be overwhelming. In between onboarding and getting to know your direct reports, you need to familiarize yourself with the tech stack, tooling, operations, and rhythm of the business. A 30-60-90-day plan can set you up for success in your new job. Here’s how to write one for a smooth transition.

What is a 30-60-90-day plan?

A 30-60-90-day plan is a tool for new managers or managers new to their role to gain clarity of what’s expected from them. It allows you to identify the largest challenges, and set goals. It serves as a guide, a resource, and a checklist. It’s a key part of a robust onboarding process. It’s a reminder of priorities, and defines what you plan to accomplish in the time frame.

When I moved from managing the JavaScript Cloud Advocacy team at Microsoft to managing multiple teams, drafting a 30-60-90-day plan helped me think about priorities, set realistic time-bound expectations, and identify the highest priorities for myself and my teams. I used it as a checklist for my goals, as well as who to meet with.

Six tips for making a 30-60-90-day plan

1. Think big picture

Start by identifying your big goals for the first three months, then break it down into manageable tasks for each month. Reflect on your overall priorities and identify why the company hired you. Does your team have specific long-term goals? Is there anything particularly important that senior leadership wants to see?

Start with what’s important for you. Think about the steps it’ll take to set yourself on track to be successful in the role long-term. Identify how short-term goals feed into the bigger picture.

2. Set smart goals

In each stage of your strategy plan, your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Try to be concise with your plan. Instead of, “Meet many product stakeholders”, try, “Schedule 5 initial 1:1s with product stakeholders in the first 30 days”, and “Set up 3 regular 1:1s with stakeholders outside of my organization within 60 days”. This way, you can measure your progress.

3. Be a sponge

Ask your manager and stakeholders what you can tackle in the first 90 days that will allow you to hit the ground running, as well as make a significant impact in the organization. Ask many questions about the company, culture, goals, and challenges. Soak up as much information as you can. Read existing strategy documents like annual road maps or objectives and key results (OKRs). Understanding existing OKRs is a great way to get a better sense of the current status of direction of different teams. Try to get your hands on ORKs for your team, your larger org, and cross-functional partner teams.

4. Meet, meet, meet

Relationships are crucial for leaders. Meet with your peers (the direct reports of your manager), coworkers with a similar role to you, anybody you’ll work with regularly outside your organization, and, if possible, the previous manager of your team. Ask many questions to understand the big picture. In each meeting, learn about the other person’s role in the company and get to know them as a person. Look them up on LinkedIn before the meeting. Maybe you have a shared interest to connect on a more personal level. I recommend listening as much as possible when you’re new, but also having a light agenda prepared, so these first meetings go more smoothly.

5. Be flexible

Remember, the 30-60-90 plan is less of a strict plan and more a general direction. The thinking and reflecting that goes into the creation of the plan is valuable in itself. Regularly check into your plan and be flexible to adjust it.

6. Level set expectations with your manager

It’s important to discuss your 30-60-90-day plan with your direct manager. Ask them to point out gaps and tasks that should be deprioritized. This helps to establish a shared understanding of expectations for your role, and clarifies short- and long-term goals.

An example 30-60-90 plan

Here’s a sample plan that you can adapt to your own position. Every role and company is unique, so don’t expect to use this plan exactly as it is, but it should make it easier than starting with a blank piece of paper.

Highest priority goals

  • Establish a rapport with each direct report
  • Build relationships with peers and partners
  • Deliver on project X

Biggest challenges

  • Lack of clarity for team priorities
  • Recent attrition of key players

30 days

Dates: July 1–July 31, 2022
Highest-priority goal(s): Understand current challenges of the team
Actions:

  • Establish weekly 1:1 with each report
  • Set up 1:1s with peers
  • Learn about goals and challenges of Y
  • Get familiar with Z

60 days

Dates: August 1–August 31, 2022
Highest priority goal(s): Establish professional connections with the team
Actions:

  • Career discussions with reports
  • Schedule a meeting with skip manager
  • Learn team members' strengths and weaknesses.
  • Evaluate team members' recent work performance.
  • Prioritize which projects need my attention
  • Coordinate with the team to optimize existing processes
  • Identify goals and identify whether the current resources are enough to achieve them

90 days

Dates: September 1–September 30, 2022
Highest priority goal(s): Build cross-team collaboration
Actions:

  • Plan the roadmap for the next quarter
  • Eliminate processes that don't work and replace them with optimized ones
  • Improve communication tools and processes

Reflections

While an exact 30-60-90-day plan is almost never possible for an engineering manager, it’s important to begin a new job with goals. You might not check off everything on your plan, and you might complete some items earlier than expected. But the plan will be a useful tool for developing a strategy and aligning with your manager. Good luck!