The First 90 Days

In the interest of improving my management skills, I read the second half of The First 90 Days based on the recommendation from a coworker who recently moved into a management position. I only read the second half of the book, as I’ve been a supervisor for a while, and, according to the person who recommended it, the first half was more focused on the first 90 days of a transition, while the latter half was more general purpose. That being said, what follows is a high-level review of what I read – please keep in mind that when I critique the book below, I really mean the last five chapters, rather than the whole book (though I’ll be saying “the book” more often than not for shorthand).

From what I read, there wasn’t a lot that I hadn’t heard before, but the author did something interesting by explicitly calling out the values of the organization to compare possible options. Specifically, he called out things like, “If your organization is more sustainment based, do X, if it is more like a start-up Y may be more effective.” I found this very interesting, as NSIDC Operations is very much a sustainment part of the organization (and so this view of things is very familiar), while other parts of the organization are not so (e.g. the informatics PIs). Being able to contrast these tactics side-by-side gave me some perspective on how to approach different aspects of the organization, while also being true to what Operations needs are.

The chapter I got the most out of was a chapter on maintaining balance. In this chapter, he provided a few different self-assessments and ways to use them for guiding your management style. One in particular, concerning maintaining a balance between what I need to do as a supervisor and what needs to be done and the consequences of over-balancing is currently hanging on my wall to remind me where best to put my energies.

My least favorite chapter, as in most books of this ilk, was the last chapter in the book. Here the author tries to make the case that his methodology is universally valuable, and that everyone should be using and sharing it. While it’s an understandable sentiment (and very likely helps to sell books), I always feel like it degrades the trust built by the author. As a reader, I’m going to be thinking critically about the content as I know it’s not universal and I’ll need to pick and choose what works in my setting.

Overall, I feel like the book was helpful. There were certainly strategies that I can employ concerning networking and balance, and there were certainly things that would be useful for a first-time manager to learn.

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