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How a CEO develops a 100 day plan.

By Ruth Tearle

pathAs a new CEO, you have been appointed by a board of directors to either turn around an organization, or to build on its success. To do this, you need the support of your leadership team, and other influential people within the organization. But their support is not guaranteed.

During your first 100 days as a new CEO, your immediate subordinates, your customers and the entire organization will be watching you. They will wait to see you how you relate to them, and based on what you do or don't do, they will decide whether or not they are going to support you.

To prevent yourself from being distracted by people who want to maintain the status quo, the focus for your first 100 days as a new CEO should be on:

  • Understanding the game and context. Winning the trust and support of your leadership team, the organization and its customers.
  • Setting new ground rules and expectations.
  • Putting your own stamp on the organization. Crafting the strategy and values that will guide the organization in the future.

1. Understand the game and win support.

1.1 Understand the context

Seek to understand

rather than be understood.

Before you can put your own stamp on the organization, you need to understand the context you are working in, and the players in the game you are now playing. To understand the context read whatever documents are available that give you a feel of the organizations’ strategy and culture. This includes:

  • Strategy documents.
  • The company’s past annual reports.
  • The organizational structure chart.
  • Any work done by external consultants such as climate surveys.
  • understand-the-game Information on organizational systems such as budgets, performance reviews and balanced score cards.

1.2 Get to know your management team

Meet each of your team members individually. Begin to build support. Ask them questions in a way that shows you want to get to know and understand them. For example ask them about:

  • Their current role.
  • How it fits into the organization or supports the business strategy.
  • How they are feeling right now. What is working for them. What is frustrating them.
  • Their career aspirations. Their hopes and dreams.
  • The one thing they would change in the organization if they were CEO.
  • The type of support they would like to get from you as their leader.

1.3 Get support from Human Resources and Marketing.

Ask your HR director to set up interviews with key people within the organization who are not part of your management team, but may be powerful contributors or centres of influence. At these interviews ask the same questions that you asked your management team. Ask your marketing director to set up interviews with the 20% of customers who provide 80% of the organizations profits.

1.4 Get to know your customers.

Meet with your organizations most important customers. Ask them about their relationship with your organization. What is working for them? What is not working for them? Ask them to talk about one thing they would change about your organization, if they had your job.

2. Observe what is happening in your organization

Sail imaginationWalk around the organization. What are your first impressions? Does each area look organized or chaotic? How relaxed, focused or stressed are people? Are they pulling together? Do they support one another? How do they respond when you greet them? Observe what is happening and what is not happening. To what extent do your impressions of each area match what you were told in your interviews with your management team, customers and centres of influence?

3. Analyze the game.

Analyze the responses from all your meetings, observations and from reading documents. Create into 3 lists detailing:

  1. What is working.
  2. What is not working.
  3. What people would like to see changed and what you believe should be changed.

4. Make your mark.

4.1 Set some new ground rules

teamworkTake some time to develop a speech that you will give to your management team. This speech will set the tone for how things will be done in the organization under your watch and should cover 3 themes:

  1. Who you are and what you value. What is important to you as a leader.
  2. What you expect from your team. This should include what you expect from each individual and from the team as a whole. Be clear about what is acceptable to you, as well as what is unacceptable, and what you won’t tolerate.
  3. What they can expect from you. Tell you team what they can expect from you in turn, as a leader – should they behave in ways that are acceptable to you. Take time to craft this speech – as this speech is the first step in creating the culture you want in the organization

4.2 Rebuild the team around your leadership

You now need to ensure that your top team works effectively as a team. This means that they:

  • Support one another
  • Play to each others strengths rather than highlight one another's weaknesses.
  • Agree on some ground rules regarding how they will behave towards one another. A code of conduct.
  • Act as a team, united by a common set of values.

Use some of the team building interventions in the OD interventions library to help you build the team you want to work with in the future.


4.3 Craft a new strategy for the organization

Together with your management team, and key players within the organization, you are now ready to lead the organization. Applying the 80/20 principle to leadership, the most powerful tools you will use are a new vision or strategic plan, and a set of values for the organization.


Your strategic plan (vision), will drive what is done in your organization. It will determine your goals, priorities, budgets and performance measures.

Your values will drive how people behave in your organization and your culture.

Take the time you need to craft these both brilliantly and in a way that gets support and buy-in from all your key stakeholders.

And use the power of these two tools, to help you lead effectively.

As a new CEO, winning over your team and customers, can make your job far easier and more satisfying. By setting the ground rules for behavior in your management team in your first 100 days you can reduce conflict, and stop political game playing. You can then start building a winning team. That team can then focus their energy on developing and implementing a powerful strategy, and set of organizational values. Your vision and values then become the 20% of leadership tools that you and your management team will use to lead the organization.

The Pareto principle states that successful people focus on the 20% of activities that generate 80% of their success. In your first 100 days, the 20% of activities for a CEO are:

  • Winning the trust and support of your organization and customers.
  • Setting new ground rules.
  • Crafting a strategy and set of values that will guide the organization in the future.

Then you can begin to unleash the magic within your organization.

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