90 day plan: VP, Product Design

Many years ago, on the advice of a mentor, I wrote a 90 day plan when starting a new job and it contributed substantially to my success. With each transition since, I continued the practice. It’s a breakdown of my strategies for getting up to speed and what I plan on accomplishing over the first 30, 60, and 90 days. For my last few positions, I’ve actually written it during the interview process and presented to my potential manager to ensure alignment on expectations of the role. Transitions are challenging for anyone, but joining an existing organization as a leader requires additional skill — as you establish trust, build alliances, and secure critical early wins. Here’s the plan I wrote for my new role as VP, Product Design at Integrate, in the hope that it’s helpful to others starting something new.

30 days

  • Meet everyone on the team. Gain an understanding of individual and collective strengths and weaknesses. Begin weekly one-on-ones.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Take advantage of fresh eyes. What is being said after meetings and behind closed doors? Find out what people are afraid of. Hear all the excuses.
  • Get to know the executive team and develop relationships with key players throughout the organization.
  • Gain a deep understanding of the market, competition, and product.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of current business, customer, marketing, sales, and product metrics.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of the current vision and strategy of the company and products.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of the software development life cycle — specifically, product discovery and delivery. How does the organization decide which ideas to pursue? How are they prioritized? How are they validated? How is success measured?

60 days

  • Interview 20 customers.
  • Review, and begin plans for improving if needed, the product tool stack.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of the tech stack, including tech and design debt.
  • If it isn’t happening, begin holding a weekly company-wide event where teams report on experiments they ran the past week and what they learned, and share stories about how others are living company values.
  • Train on and begin executing defensible design critiques.
  • Commission user experience, usability, accessibility, and product performance audits.
  • Assist team in establishing objectives and key results.

90 days

  • Develop a defensible personal point of view.
  • Publish a commander’s intent (which includes “the single most important thing…”).
  • Develop first draft of user experience vision.
  • Fill existing open roles.
  • Develop staffing report and 12 month hiring plan.
  • Facilitate the development of team operating agreement.
  • If the roadmap is feature- and date-based, promote migration to prioritized outcomes.
  • Present recommendations for enhancements to product development lifecycle, organizational structure, and other operational processes.
  • Lead the team in shipping a company-wide user experience win.