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First 90 Days Blog
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Making Virtual Teams Work: Ten Basic PrinciplesOpen in a New Window

How to build the foundation for superior performance.


Twelve Rules for New GradsOpen in a New Window

What to tell your favorite graduate about how to succeed in the workplace.


What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?Open in a New Window

What leaders need to know to change orgs for the better.


Congratulations, Mr. President. Now Comes the Hard Part.Open in a New Window

The morning after a hard-fought campaign is the time to savor the sweet taste of victory. And what a campaign it has been, scaling new political heights and plumbing new lows. So enjoy the morning after Mr. President, because that’s really all the time you can afford. You lead a nation divided, depleted and at a cross-roads. You have four more years to make a difference. The first 100 days of your second (and last)... More »


Improving Leadership Transitions is Not Short-termismOpen in a New Window

In his recent Businessweek blog entry on The CEO Revolving Door, Kevin Kelly, the CEO of Heidrick and Struggles, correctly laments the short-term orientation that hobbles many new CEOs. However he also asserts that my work on The First 90 Days is part of the problem and that my focus on transitions has somehow encouraged short-term thinking. To quote Mr. Kelly: “I blame a culture of impatience. Business readers have snapped up 500,000 copies of... More »


Are Your Leaders Teaching the Next Generation of Leaders?Open in a New Window

Once a year, I chair a future enterprise leader development program at a Fortune 500 firm. It includes elements on strategy, innovation, leadership, decision-making, corporate diplomacy, and executive presence. The most powerful element is a one-week module on enterprise perspective, the core of which is presentations by virtually all of company’s senior executive team. It’s all about leaders teaching leaders. The program highlights the critical role that senior leaders play, in the best companies, in... More »


I Want To Live Like Common People: BP and the Great PR DivideOpen in a New Window

After his slicing, dicing, and grilling by Congress, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward has been relieved of some of his duties, with responsibilities for managing the company’s PR response shifting to chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. This is just two days after BP’s public relations debacle descended into class farce when Svanberg, a wealthy Swede, stated that, “We care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies, or greedy companies, don’t care. But that... More »


How BP Could Have Avoided DisasterOpen in a New Window

What is the most damning criticism to be leveled at the CEO of BP and his senior team for what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico? It’s that they committed the company to a global strategy but failed to implement global operating policies necessary to execute it effectively. It’s become abundantly clear that BP had no coherent global policy for how to conduct deep-water drilling. And when a gap opens between global strategy and... More »


What Should President Obama Do in the Next 90 Days?Open in a New Window

Here’s a leadership challenge for the ages. Let’s imagine that you were appointed to turn around a business that was in very deep trouble. It was awash in red ink, shedding employees like leaves in fall, at risk of losing its access to capital, and staffed by employees who were terribly demoralized. And let’s suppose that you did all the right things to put the company back on the path to health; you shored up... More »


When Should We Forgive Failure?Open in a New Window

“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.” — Stephen Kaggwa Earlier this week I was a guest on Minnesota Public Radio’s morning show discussing “The Gulf Oil Spill and the Blame Game.” The other guest was Alan Webber, ex of HBR, founder of Fast Company, and author of Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Your Self, and we had a wonderful conversation about the culture of unaccountability that contributed... More »


How To Punish Leadership NegligenceOpen in a New Window

In any sensible system of institutional governance, negligence would be sanctioned. So why is it that leaders of major corporations often seem to escape punishment for negligent conduct? Why is it that Tony Hayward, the head of BP, can publicly admit that it was “probably true” that the company should have done more to prepare for deep-water drilling emergencies and still keep his job? This is a company that as recently as March 2010 defined... More »


The Gulf Oil Spill: A Classic Failure of Systems LeadershipOpen in a New Window

There are two wonderful articles on the Gulf of Mexico oil-spill disaster in the May 11 Wall Street Journal that are required reading for everyone interested in systems failures and the need for systems leadership. The first is a case study in how to abrogate responsibility when thing go badly wrong. It describes the finger-pointing among BP, Transocean, and Halliburton over who is responsible for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig. No one wants... More »


Leaning Your Way to DisasterOpen in a New Window

What do Toyota’s sudden-acceleration woes and the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have in common? Both are examples of a type of organizational breakdown that is destined, absent some fundamental rethinking of what “leadership” means, to become ever more common and damaging: complex systems failures triggered by seeming rational patterns of cost-reduction decision-making. Call it leaning your way to disaster. A familiar example may help to illustrate how this works; I call... More »


Afghanistan and the Promise and Peril of DeadlinesOpen in a New Window

“After 18 months our troops will begin to come home.” – President Obama speaking to the nation on his strategy for Afghanistan, December 1, 2009 In his West Point speech about the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, President Obama did four important things. First and most importantly, he took personal responsibility for winning the war; there is now no question that he “owns” the Afghan conflict from this point forward. Second, he signaled robust... More »


Obama and Afghanistan: Deciding vs. DeliberatingOpen in a New Window

“The strongest of all warriors are these two: Time and Patience.” – Leo Tolstoy “I’m the decider,” former President George Bush famously uttered in April of 2006. “I decide what is best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense.” Bush’s use of the term “decider” captures the essence of his Administration’s approach to governing: making “right decisions” as opposed to making decisions the right way. And, as has... More »


In the Talent War, the Ceasefire Is OverOpen in a New Window

With so many companies focused on simple survival during the downturn, with so much job loss and anxiety among those who survived, it was easy to forget about the war for top talent. But the downturn was just a temporary truce; the battle is about to erupt again in full force. And ironically the companies are the most at risk of losing their best leaders are ones that responded most vigorously (but often misguidedly) during... More »


Obama and the Peace Prize: "A" for AttitudeOpen in a New Window

Beyond the obvious snub to the Bush Administration, what was the Nobel Committee’s goal in awarding President Obama the Peace Prize? Certainly this is not an “A” for accomplishment, as it will take years, if not decades, to discern whether the Obama administration’s international overtures and embrace of the UN system will bear fruit. (Let’s remember to acknowledge the hard work of Hillary Clinton here too.) Rather it is an “A” for attitude; it’s for... More »


Job 1 at GMOpen in a New Window

With the declaration of Chapter 11, GM is poised to enter a new era. Deciding to place a big bet that a massive, tax-payer funded restructuring will truly turn the company around, the Obama Administration is forcing changes that should have occurred a decade or more ago. The core of the transformation strategy is a separation of “New GM” from “Old GM.” Essentially the company will be split in two with the assets of the... More »


Obama and the Vision ThingOpen in a New Window

In this post, I continue my evaluation of President Obama’s first stretch in office, focusing on the third and final evaluative dimension: creating a compelling vision. Has he begun to articulate an inspiring vision for what he will accomplish during his first term? Transitioning executives must begin to lay out a vision for what they will accomplish during their tenure in the role. For President Obama, this means defining and communicating what he hopes to... More »


Has Obama Built a Strong Foundation?Open in a New Window

In this post, I continue my evaluation of President Obama’s first stretch in office, focusing on a second key dimension: laying a foundation. Has he laid a solid foundation for accomplishing his A-item priorities during the remainder of his first year in office? Early wins – the first dimension – help new leaders get off to a good start, but they are not sufficient for continued success. Like all newly-appointed executives, President Obama should also... More »


Obama's First 100 Days: Has He Secured Early Wins?Open in a New Window

In my last post, I laid out a framework for evaluating President Obama’s first 100 days on three dimensions: Securing early wins (short-term). Did the he build credibility by scoring early victories while avoiding or mitigating losses? Laying a foundation (medium-term). Did he lay a solid foundation for accomplishing A-item priorities during the remainder of his first year? Articulating a vision (long-term). Did he begin to articulate an inspiring vision for what he will accomplish... More »


Obama's First 100 Days: How Should We Evaluate Him?Open in a New Window

Editor’s note: This post is part of our special package examining Obama’s transition into the Presidency. As President Obama’s first 100 days draw to a close, countless news organizations, pundits, and bloggers are gearing up to deliver their assessments. In fact, the media machinations are taking on the character of an arms race. So here’s my opening salvo. It’s not (yet) an assessment of our new President’s first 100 days, it’s about how we should... More »


President Obama: Negotiator-in-ChiefOpen in a New Window

When it comes to getting things done in the domestic arena, Presidents can lean heavily on the executive authority that comes packaged with the Office. The situation shifts substantially when it comes to international relations. Here the President has little inherent authority to mandate outcomes; he must wield the age-old tools of diplomacy to achieve progress. And President Obama’s recent international foray amply highlighted the myriad challenges we face, given the severe diminution of America’s... More »


Obama's Matrixed PresidencyOpen in a New Window

This post is part of’s in-depth look at the First 90 Days of Obama’s Administration. While much attention is being focused on the (welcome) details of the Geithner plan for stabilizing the banking system, little attention has been given to the remarkable changes in the way economic policy is being formulated in the Obama Administration. Much more than was the case in previous Administrations, economic policy is being made through a cross-department integration mechanism... More »


Why the First 100 Days MattersOpen in a New Window

This article is part of our in-depth look at President Obama’s first three months in office. In a feature article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend historian David Greenberg writes of “The Folly of the First Hundred Days” . His piece describes some Presidents who did a lot in their first hundred days (FDR, Reagan), and others who worried a lot about it (Kennedy). But nowhere does he provide an iota of evidence to... More »


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