The New Leader's Guide to Building a Powerful 30 60 90 Day Plan
A well-crafted 30 60 90 day plan is an essential management tool. If you are new to managing projects and programs, you're in the right place. Here's your guide to building a really, really good one - and a template to help you execute it.
It's one of the most powerful tools in a manager’s toolkit.
A well-crafted 30 60 90 day plan provides laser-like focus on priorities, allowing managers and their teams to optimize their time, talent, and budget.
Carefully-laid 30 60 90 day plans function like a road map to successful projects and programs. At the heart of any good 30 60 90 day plan are the following five elements:
But what, exactly, does a 30 60 90 day plan look like?
So glad you asked! In this post, we breakdown exactly how to structure a 30 60 90 day plan that sets a clear course of action and expectations.
What is the high-level structure of a powerful 30 60 90 day plan?
We’re going to go covered a lot of ground here and in detail. So, for the sake of keeping things clear and simple, we’ll start with a very high-level outline of what a 30 60 90 day plan looks like before we zoom in for more specifics at the 30-, 60-, and 90-day levels.
Like so many worthwhile journeys, your 30 60 90 day plan should begin with one thing in mind: the end.
The end-all, be-all of your 30 60 90 day plan is...
...a set of three to five carefully-crafted, high-priority SMART goals.
When I say "carefully-crafted" and "high-priority", I mean it. You’ve got to white-glove the creation of your 90-day goals. Why? Because you and your team will be funneling their undivided time, energy, and attention into these goals for the next three months of your work lives.
Your tall task is to create goals that your team will be just as jazzed about on Day 71 as they are on Day 1.
These 90-day goals should be exciting.
You know, worthy of the pursuit.
The better you know your team, your department, and your company's key issues and opportunities, etc. the better you will get at crafting 90-day goals that are all of these things. To help you create awesome, make-'em-wanna-hustle goals, we've created a comprehensive post on SMART goal setting. Click the link to open it in a new tab, then bookmark it for later!
3 at-minimum criteria for your 90-day goals
Right now, let’s keep things simple with just three baseline criteria these goals should meet.
At a minimum, each of your three to five goals should:
Address a high-priority issue or opportunity.
If you don’t know what your department or organization’s priority issues and opportunities are, you're going to want to find out- and quick. Right now, your boss is your go-to resource for this information.
Be achievable within 90 days using ONLY existing talent and resources (a.k.a. they must be 'right-sized').
Short, sweet goals are best and it's best that your team can achieve them with the time, talent, and budget they have on hand right now.
More on this one momentarily.
Let's pause for an important bit of clarification:
Each of your three to five goals must tick off all three of these boxes.
Measurable goals allow for milestones
A measurable goal reflects a desired incremental increase (or decrease) from a baseline.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of measurable goals, pairing each one up with our second at-minimum requirement of being achievable with existing talent and resources in 90 days.
The bottom line is, measurable goals make it easy to demonstrate value to your boss (and your boss’ boss) in finite units of productivity and value.
But, that’s not all.
Making 90-day goals measurable allows us to break them down into 30-day chunks of progress that are also measurable. These measurable chunks of progress are quite useful. They:
- 1Help teams stay engaged over the 90-day journey
- 2Give visibility to the pace at which progress is being made and whether momentum needs to be ramped up
- 3Serve as the framework of the mid-level structure of your 30 60 90 day plan
How to break your 90-day goals down into 30-day "chunks of progress"
Now, there are a lot of ways you can break your 90-day goals down into 30-day chunks of progress. Using our example goal of Secure 900 new subscribers in the next 90 days, let’s start with the most obvious.
You can equally distribute 1/3 of the ‘achievement’ across your 30, 60 and 90-day increments.
Your 90-day plan would look like this:
Day 1-30: Add 300 new subscribers.
Day 30-60: Add 300 new subscribers.
Day 60-90: Add 300 new subscribers.
In my experience, goals are rarely achieved like this.
More often, during those earlier weeks, your team is building traction and positioning themselves for bigger wins that are more likely to come together towards the end of the 90-day goal period.
Distribute your progress across those 30-day increments like this and you risk subjecting your team to undue pressure during those first 30 days.
Alternatively, you could apply a sliding scale of progress across those 30, 60 and 90-day increments.
Your 90-day plan would look like this:
Day 1-30: Add 100 new subscribers.
Day 30-60: Add 300 new subscribers.
Day 60-90: Add 500 new subscribers.
In my experience, goals are rarely achieved like this either, but it is an improvement.
So, what’s the best way to break your 90-day goals down into 30-day chunks of progress?
The BEST way to break your 90-day goals down into 30-day chunks of progress
A far more effective approach to breaking down your 90-day goals into 30-day chunks of progress is by applying a theme to each 30-day period.
These "themes" are reflective of what’s "going on" at that point of the plan and they guide the actual work that is taking place during these 30-day time periods.
Day 1-30: Research and Discovery
Day 30-60: Positioning and Strategy
Day 60-90: Execution and Production
These themes? They make up the mid-level structure of our 30-60-90 Day Plan.
Let’s take a look at each theme in greater detail.
What is the mid-level structure of a 30 60 90 day plan?
Day 1-30. Research and Discovery.
Let’s get something straight - you can’t expect that your team will immediately start producing size-able units of achievement as defined in your 90-day goal on day one. (I mean, I suppose you can, but you shouldn’t.)
Let’s say you are a sales manager with a naturally-talented sales rep on your team. Can this person start pounding the pavement – and making sales – on Day 1? Absolutely.
Is that what you want them doing? Depends.
If, on Day 1, you are completely confident that you’ve optimally allocated the time, energy, and talent of all of your reps and in the broader context of this particular goal, then go for it.
If not, the first 30 days of your 90-Day Plan should be dedicated to developing a crystal clear understanding of how you will achieve your 90-day goals in the face of issues, opportunities, hell, high water, etc.
Tasks during this phase might include:
During this phase, you and your team will ask a lot of questions. You might meet internally amongst yourselves and/or externally with customers and consultants for feedback.
Can this phase also include some time actually making sales, creating content, delivering services, producing widgets, etc.? Absolutely!
But, the main focus is: gathering up insights on exactly how to optimize time, energy, and talent for maximum momentum during Days 60-90.
Although research and discovery is the predominant theme of the first 30 days, it continues for the full ninety.
Why the Research and Discovery Phase is so important
It provides focus and clarity, which in turn, create an understanding of where to be flexible or rigid for the remainder of the 90-day plan.
Day 30-60. Positioning and Strategizing.
From Day 30 to 60, you will use the insights you gathered from Day 1 to 30 to position yourselves to secure the 90-day wins.
What does this mean?
It means, thanks to the clarity your team now has, you can form concrete ideas about what actions need to be taken to achieve your 90-day goal.
Now is also the time to develop initiatives around those concrete ideas and secure the resources you will need to execute them, if you didn’t already in the previous phase.
Tasks during this phase might include:
Why the Positioning and Strategizing Phase is so important
It provides specific programs, projects, and tasks for your team to direct their time, energy and talent into.
Day 60-90. Execution and Production.
The final 30 days of your 30-60-90 Day Plan consist predominantly of executing the strategies and initiatives you identified and planned Day 30-60.
Tasks during this phase might include:
Why the Execution and Production Phase is so important
This is where the magic happens – and also where ongoing tweaks, refinements, and learning lessons take place.
One final note on these phases: they are very flexible.
Your Research and Discovery Phase might not be a nice, neat 30 days, it might bleed into 40. Because of the deep dive you did during the R&D Phase, your Positioning and Strategizing Phase might be a short, sweet 20 days.
Go with the flow of progress.
To make sure we’ve got the concepts clear, let’s have a look at what our structure looks like with these themes before we zoom into our most granular level of our 30-60-90 Day Plan.
The best 30 60 90 day plan function like a road map to success. Here's how to build one. | The New Leader's Guide to Building a Powerful 30 60 90 Day Plan.
What is the detailed-level structure of a 30-60-90 day plan?
We mentioned that any good plan includes the following:
And, so far, we’ve talked meaningful, measurable 90-day goals and we’ve talked themed chunks of progress, including when and where strategies and initiatives come into play.
Now it’s time to address those final, detailed elements of our 30-60-90 Day Plan.
For each of your 30-day, themed chunks of progress, you should explicitly account for the following:
(1) The resources you will need to make that progress.
(2) The potential roadblocks that would prevent you from making that progress.
Here’s more info on each:
The resources you should account for include time, tools, personnel, and budget.
This one’s obvious, right? This is an accounting of the man-hours you need to accomplish what you set out to during those 30 days.
You will also need to take an inventory of any tools you will need for the next thirty days. These might include software, hardware, reports, equipment, product samples, training, etc.
An accounting of how you will best allocate the personality and skill sets on your team during those ninety days.
You’re familiar with this one, yes? Is there a gap between what you might need to spend and what’s in the bank?
One final note on resources. You should make a note of any resources you will need to accomplish that chunk of progress that you currently do not have on hand.
As you plan your 90-day goal-crushing trek, you'll need to think proactively about what sort of 'bad weather' might impact it.
For each potential issue you identify, come up with one preventive or corrective measure to address it.
How do you know what your potential issues are? Well, your resource list is a great place to start.
Consider time. Do you have enough man-hours to complete identified tasks for the next thirty days? If not, can you get help via a cross-trained employee or temp agency?
Consider tools. Do you anticipate a lack of proficiency in a new software tool? If so, can you allocate some additional time to training during this thirty-day period?
Consider personnel. Who on your team exhibits the best sales skills? Are they willing to take the lead during those distributor meeting? Can they also role-play with others on the team in case they have an off-day?
Consider budget. Does your department budget support the tools you need or initiatives you plan to put in place? If not, can you secure more?
This part of your plan is where you proactively triage detours, doing everything you can to ensure success at 90 days.
With our 90-day goals, 30-day progress themes and resource and triage plans in place, there’s just one element left in our 30-60-90 Day Plan structure.
Now, let’s talk evaluation.
Your 30 60 90 day is incomplete without THIS fail-proofing step. | The New Leader's Guide to Building a Powerful 30 60 90 Day Plan
How to create an effective evaluation plan
Your 30 60 90 day plan must also include a pre-determined method of evaluation. This is a framework for evaluating and assessing ‘how far you got’ and why.
Thanks to how we’ve structured our plan, we already have three specific places we can look for solid evaluation plan guidance.
Evaluation Plan Guide No. 1. Our set of 3-5 goals.
Did we reach them, exceed them, or fall short?
Evaluation Plan Guide No. 2. Our themed chunks of progress.
How quickly did we move through each phase? How effectively did we move through each phase?
Evaluation Plan Guide No. 3. Our resource inventory and triage plan.
Did we take an accurate inventory of our resources?
Did we allocate those resources optimally?
Were our triage plans utilized?
Were they successful?
Were there potential roadblocks that we overlooked?
Why these evaluation questions matter.
These are the kinds of questions that will ensure ongoing, never-ever-ending education and improvement, which is ultimately what success is made of.
30-60-90 Day Plans: Top 3 recommendations for new managers
Developing engaging and effective 30-60-90 Day Plans is one of those things that comes with practice and experience.
So, what’s a first-time manager looking to find their footing fast to do?
Here are my top three recommendations for new managers looking to start creating powerful 30 60 90 day plans right away.
Don’t create one in your first 30 days on the job
The truth is, I don’t believe you can come up with a good 30-60-90 day plan within your first few weeks on the job.
I do believe you can come up with a rock solid Research and Discovery Plan. And this will help you lay a solid foundation of success not just for the next three months, but for your entire first year in your leadership role.
You can use the description of the Day 0-30 Research and Discovery Phase to help you craft one of your own, but I also offer more detail on specific strategies and initiatives for effective Research and Discovery Plans in my FIRST90 program - more on that below!
Choose three meaningful, measurable goals only
When it is time to create your 30-60-90 Day Plan, select no more than three goals to get after for the next 90 days. My recommendations for 90-day goals for newer leaders include:
- Learning, Research, and Analysis goals
Focus on training goals, developing insightful sets of Key Performance Indicators, completing research projects, analyzing existing data for opportunities, etc.
- Team Building goals
Focus on creating development plans for team members, designing an effective team meeting format, developing a shared project management strategy.
- Collaboration goals
Collaborate with another department to improve a shared process.
- Niching goals
Select goals that help you and your team establish a specialty. Choose based on ‘promises’ you made during your interview process. Are you an authority on product safety? Were you hired to give a failing product a second wind? To reduce employee turnover? To improve brand image? Start with what you’re good at.
Reassess your resource inventory and triage plans at the end of Day 30 and 60
I recommend an in-person group brainstorm on these two topics towards the end of Day 30 and Day 60. With your 90-day goals and 30-day chunks of progress up on a board, take a group assessment of what’s been going smoothly and what hasn’t.
Be sure to ask about the adequacy of resources using the specific terms of time, tools, budget, and personnel and ask for specific examples of existing and anticipated hiccups and snags.
Update your resource inventory and your triage plan to reflect the feedback you receive from your group.
Bonus Recommendation: Get your FREE copy of our 30 60 90 day plan template
Putting together a really good 30 60 90 day plan is especially critical for a new managers because it can impact:
Career-wise, it doesn't get more important.
At ManagerMaker.co, we’ve created a template we think will help you with this process. Enter your details below and we'll send a copy your way for free.
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Hello! My name is Morgan. I created ManagerMaker.co to help new managers quickly find confidence and success in their first leadership role. Here you'll find programs, tools, and guides designed to fast-track your journey from first-time manager to confident, creative leader. The best place to start? Our 10-Day Leadership Skills challenge where you'll learn how to leap over the five biggest hurdles that keep most new managers from finding their footing in their first year. Sign up below, its free!
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