Why 100-Day Plans Don’t Work


You have a plan for your first 100 days as a new executive.

It sounds impressive, right? Understandably, it’s the common wisdom.

As a new executive, having a 100-day plan can feel like having a platform to stand on as you gain footing in a new role. It’s proof that you know what you’re doing. It’s a showcase of your leadership expertise. It’s clear direction forward.

But it’s almost entirely worthless.

In fact, 100-day plans nearly always set up new executives to fail.

Here’s why.

100-Days is an Arbitrary Timeframe

Unless there’s a clearly communicated, improbably necessary timeframe of exactly 100 days for you to achieve clear results, announcing 100 days as the scope of your plan is arbitrary.

Not only that, but 100 days is probably too long.

A lot can change within that time, especially in a new role. As soon as you start as a new executive, you’ll undoubtedly uncover new information that you didn’t have prior to assuming the position. There’s a good chance that you’ll be far better served by taking things in a shorter timeframe.


There's a Lack of Context

If you’re a new-to-role executive, the simple truth is that you don’t have a full enough understanding of your new position to craft a comprehensive, reliable 100-day plan.

This isn’t to say that you don’t have what it takes to bring forth good ideas and leadership into the organization. You’ve been selected for this seat for a reason. You have the experience and insights you need.

But you don’t have proper context.

A leader can have all of the skill and experience in the world, but if they don’t have context, they won’t be able to make strategic decisions. They’ll be flying blind.

To be qualified to enact an agenda, you need to understand the existing situation: the challenges, the opportunities, the language, the politics – all of it. Only after you can articulate those things in the language of your people are you ready to introduce any sort of plan.

Pushing a 100-day plan right off the bat is like rushing into building a highway without looking at a map. The road may be great, but it may end up running headlong off a cliff.

Study the map first.

Take the time to get the lay of the land, because you’ll have a far better chance of succeeding if you understand your context. In fact, we recommend spending the first three months getting input from all relevant stakeholders.

You Haven’t Invited Collaboration

That brings us to the third reason so many 100-day plans fail: by their nature, they don’t invite collaboration. If you come in with a plan of your own, your new team will inevitably balk at it (and there’s a good chance they’ll be right to, since you’re coming in with no context).

It’s much easier to get people on board with a plan if they’re able to offer input into it. If people can add their input, they’ll take greater ownership.

So instead of coming out swinging, come in ready to listen. Actively seek input from everyone who you’ll need to get on board to successfully enact your agenda. Then look for ways to incorporate their good ideas – and even their language – into your strategies.

This might mean meeting with 15 people; it might mean meeting with 400 people. Yes, it’ll take time to do this, but ultimately, it will actually expedite your initiatives.

Because without collaboration, you’ll be one person pushing against a crowd to try to get anything done. With collaboration, you’ll have the power of an aligned team on your side – and results will come far more quickly than if you were trying to push for your agenda alone.

What About the Turnaround?

Taking time to assess and get input is ideal, but, obviously, doing so takes time. What if a quick turnaround is needed?

It’s a rare and unfortunate situation, but if specific results are needed right away, focus on assessing talent quickly. You’ll either need to boost morale or quickly upgrade talent to start implementing initiatives efficiently.

Even in this case context and collaboration are essential. The process is just expedited.

Ditch the 100-Day Plan for a New Approach

100-day plans are nearly always built to fail. So, give yours up. Forgoing the comfort that it brings can be frightening, but it’s for the best. Instead of relying on the comfort of a plan, you can be open to the learning and new information that are necessary to drive lasting success.

Our executive assimilation services can help.

The truth is that being a new executive is intimidating, and the risk is real. Early mistakes can cost you. Stress spikes. The fear of incompetency lurks.

But with an executive coach, you’re not alone.

We’re there to pull you out of the fire and add objectivity to your decision-making process, giving you the clarity and support you need to stay calm and controlled in your new leader assimilation.

Ditch the 100-day plan and get ready for a new approach. Do you want to learn how to succeed as a new executive? Let’s talk.

Emily Bermes