A Guide to Navigating the First 90 Days as a New Engineering Manager

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Rafael Timbó
Rafael Timbó
Chief Technology Officer

Table of Contents

This guide presents a 30-60-90 day plan for new engineering managers, emphasizing a structured onboarding process for smooth integration, impactful leadership, and achieving alignment with company goals. The three-phase framework provides actionable steps to navigate initial complexities and guarantee early wins.
Published on
April 23, 2024
Updated on
May 21, 2024

Navigating the first 90 days in a new managerial role can be exciting and daunting. For decision-makers at startups and tech companies, providing a structured pathway for this period is crucial. A well-thought-out 30-60-90 day plan for managers could make or break the foundation for the role.

The challenge lies not just in transitioning to a new role but in doing so in a way that aligns with the company’s broader objectives.

Without clear direction, newly appointed leaders may struggle to make their mark or align with company culture effectively. This guide intends to outline actionable steps that ensure a smooth transition and set new managers on a path to success from day one.

What Is a 30-60-90 Day Plan?

A 30-60-90 day plan for managers outlines a strategic roadmap designed to streamline the transition for new leaders within their first three months. This framework is particularly valuable to set clear expectations and achievable milestones for recently appointed managers. It delineates a structured approach divided into three phases: learning and integration, contributing and executing plans, and full contribution with progress assessment.

In the initial 30 days, the emphasis is on acclimation. New managers are encouraged to set learning goals and focus on understanding company processes, team culture, and dynamics. This phase is crucial for laying a strong foundation in their new environment — akin to gathering intel before taking action.

The subsequent 60-day period shifts towards active contribution. Having gained a solid grasp of their surroundings and expectations, managers are expected to start implementing strategies that align with company performance goals while fostering team engagement and productivity.

By the final stretch — days 61 to 90 — the manager should be in full stride. They should be executing plans effectively and evaluating their impact against predefined metrics. This last phase is critical for demonstrating early wins, refining strategies based on feedback, and solidifying their role within the organization.

This plan accelerates managerial success and aligns new leaders with long-term organizational objectives, facilitating smoother transitions and fostering sustained growth.

Benefits of a 30/60/90 Day Plan for New Engineering Managers

The role of an engineering manager involves navigating a complex interplay of leadership, technical acumen, and strategic foresight. A 30-60-90 day plan stands as a beacon at the crucial starting point of this journey. It offers a structured pathway to not only assimilate swiftly into new roles, but also to set impactful goals and track progress effectively. There are many interconnected benefits to a 30/60/90 day plan for managers.

Accelerated Integration and Skill Acquisition

The first 30 days under a 30-60-90 day plan are pivotal for new engineering managers. This period is dedicated to accelerated learning: grasping the company’s methods, culture, and technical workflows with precision. By setting clear objectives for skill acquisition early on, managers can rapidly assimilate critical information necessary for their role. This swift integration is crucial in technical domains where understanding specific workflows and systems plays a significant role in effective leadership.

Moreover, this rapid skill acquisition empowers new managers to establish their credibility within the team quickly. Demonstrating proficiency in technological understanding and leadership nuances shortens the overall learning curve. Colleagues and superiors alike begin to place confidence in the manager's capabilities sooner, fostering a smoother transition into their leadership role.

Strategic Priority Alignment and Goal Setting

A critical advantage of adopting a 30-60-90 day plan is its capacity for aligning managerial goals with broader organizational objectives from day one. This aligns every effort the engineering manager makes and translates into tangible actions that propel high-level targets forward — whether it's enhancing process efficiency, driving quality improvements, or spearheading innovation.

Managers can identify key focus areas that demand their attention by breaking down these objectives into specific milestones achievable within 30-, 60-, and 90-day timeframes. Such goal-oriented planning anchors managerial efforts in outcomes that matter. Additionally, it also clarifies expectations among team members. It cultivates a shared vision that encourages cohesive efforts towards common goals, optimizing team performance and organizational impact.

Performance Tracking and Self-Assessment

The structured framework of a 30-60-90 day plan provides invaluable insights through performance tracking and self-assessment. This clarifies the milestones that managers should keep track of at each stage, offering an opportunity for immediate feedback on their leadership and strategic initiatives. The continuous feedback mechanism built into this framework allows for quick strategy adjustments. This way, they remain aligned with team needs and company goals.

As managers approach the end of the 90-day period, the plan prompts a critical moment of introspection. This is when managers evaluate their progress against initially set goals and assess their impact on team dynamics and project outcomes. Such self-assessment is key to solidifying leadership approaches that work well and identifying areas for further development.

This reflective phase also allows managers to contemplate their career trajectory within the organization. It's an opportunity to confirm their alignment with the managerial role's demands and expectations—a crucial step in fostering long-term engagement and satisfaction in their position. Ultimately, engaging in this cycle of setting benchmarks, tracking performance, and reflecting on achievements paves the way for continuous improvement and professional growth.

90-Day Leadership Plan Examples

Of course, it helps significantly if there's a measurable, concrete example managers and organizations can use as a starting point. The following 30-60-90 day plan examples illustrate how to effectively divide the 90-day leadership plan into first month, second month, and third month action plans (more on how to make your own later):

First 30 Days: Learning Phase

  • Week 1: Kickstart with introductions, grasp the company's mission, and get acquainted with engineering protocols.
  • Week 2: Forge deeper connections through individual meetings, understanding team members' skills and aspirations.
  • Week 3: Participate in operational discussions, explore the codebase, and review existing projects to understand workflows.
  • Week 4: Consolidate findings, pinpoint potential quick wins, align team objectives with organizational goals, and devise a personal growth plan.

Next 60 Days: Contribution Phase

  • Weeks 5-6: Lead a minor improvement project leveraging insights gained earlier. Begin asserting your role in steering team direction.
  • Weeks 7-8: Play a pivotal role in technical decision-making and foster enhanced teamwork through consistent interactions and group activities. Refine quick wins based on team feedback.

Final 90 Days: Mastery and Growth Phase

  • Weeks 9-10: Revisit feedback from one-on-one sessions to fine-tune processes or projects initiated earlier. Engage with senior management about team achievements and future needs.
  • Weeks 11-12: Outline strategic directions for upcoming quarters. Set clear metrics for project success; adjust your leadership approach based on introspection and feedback.

After Day 90

After the first three months, conduct a retrospective reflection on the maturation of a manager's skills. Assess if the team's technical capabilities align with the organizational vision. Strategize adjustments as necessary for continuous alignment.

This succinct roadmap ensures impactful leadership from day one while setting sights on future aspirations.

Goals for New Managers

New engineering managers should aim to establish themselves as effective and insightful leaders in the pivotal first 90 days. Goal setting for new engineering managers often covers a range of critical areas essential for early success. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Understanding and learning: Before a manager can lead, they must first learn. This learning curve encompasses:some text
    • Reviewing project documentation to build a comprehensive understanding of both ongoing and planned initiatives
    • Conducting one-on-one meetings with team members to grasp individual strengths, challenges, and the dynamics within the team
    • Diving into the technology stack and codebase, which serves as the backbone of your team’s work—knowing it inside-out is crucial
    • Mapping out the product pipeline, identifying critical milestones, deliverables, and how they fit into broader company objectives
  • Relational and cultural adaptation: The strength of a manager often lies in their ability to forge strong connections.
  • Establish regular team meetings to cultivate open communication channels.
  • Participate actively in cross-functional discussions, understanding how different parts of the company interlink and contribute towards shared goals.
  • Build rapport with peers and upper management; these relationships are invaluable for navigating your role within the company’s ecosystem.
  • Strategic execution: With knowledge comes action. Strategic execution focuses on the following:
  • Leading a small-scale project or implementing a new process representing an opportunity for early wins that establish credibility.
  • Streamlining processes where appropriate, aiming for efficiency gains or quality improvements that resonate across teams.

Setting these ambitious yet realistic goals necessitates a few preparatory steps:

  1. Begin by assessing resources and constraints to understand what's feasible within your first 90 days. This realism grounds your ambitions in practicality.
  2. Next, prioritize objectives that align with broader organizational aims, focusing efforts where they're most needed.
  3. Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from peers and superiors. Their insights validate your direction or offer constructive pivots.

Incorporating micro-goals into this array brings tangible benefits:

  • They act as milestones towards quick wins: A boost for both morale and perceived effectiveness among your team
  • They allow fluidity in strategy: Adapting plans based on emerging information or unforeseen hurdles becomes simpler without losing sight of overarching aims.
  • They facilitate continuous performance evaluation: Providing real-time feedback on what strategies are hitting the mark.

Together, these strategies form a comprehensive approach for new engineering managers aiming not just to transition smoothly into their roles but also to excel by making meaningful contributions from day one.

How to Make a 30-60-90 Plan

Crafting a 90-day action plan is like laying down the tracks for a successful journey into new managerial terrain. This 30-60-90 day plan template—divided into learning, contribution, and mastery phases—paves the way for new managers to hit the ground running with a smooth transition and a meaningful impact in the role. Let’s explore how to structure this plan effectively.

30-Day Plan: The Learning Phase

The inaugural 30 days of any managerial role are foundational, setting the tone for the role’s leadership and influence within the team and organization. This phase is about immersion and observation, with a focus on understanding rather than immediate action. Here’s how to structure the approach:

  1. Dive deep into the company’s engineering processes: Start by familiarizing the new manager with the core engineering processes, technology stack, and ongoing projects. This knowledge forms the bedrock of future decisions and leadership styles.
  2. Build relationships: Cultivate connections with team members, key stakeholders, and other departments. Understanding each person's role, expertise, and expectations will be invaluable as managers navigate their new positions.
  3. Assess team dynamics: Pay close attention to how the team interacts—who takes initiative, how conflicts are resolved, and where friction points exist. Identifying these dynamics early on will aid in tailoring a manager’s leadership approach.
  4. Learn the technical abilities of individual contributors: Gauge the strengths and areas for development within the team by understanding each member's technical capabilities. This insight will prove crucial when delegating tasks or championing professional growth.
  5. Set personal goals: While much of this phase is outward-looking, managers should also reflect on what they wish to achieve in this role. They should set smart goals around learning objectives to guide their efforts moving forward.
  6. Solicit feedback early: Begin collecting feedback from both superiors and team members about their expectations from this role as well as their perception of organizational needs.

Incorporating these steps into the first 30 days not only accelerates acclimation but also positions the manager as someone who values comprehensive understanding before action. This trait builds respect among colleagues and establishes a solid foundation for effective leadership.

60-Day Plan: The Contribution Phase

Transitioning from the learning phase, the next 30 days are about beginning to apply what has been learned and contributing more directly to the team’s success. This phase is characterized by deeper involvement in technical decisions, project ownership, and fostering a culture of trust and collaboration. Here's a structured plan for maximizing contribution in this stage:

  1. Apply technical insight: Leverage the understanding of the product and codebase grasped in the first month to influence technical decisions. This could involve suggesting improvements, advocating for new tools or practices that enhance productivity or quality.
  2. Establish trust through leadership: Managers should continue to build on the relationships formed during the initial phase. Show commitment by being accessible, supporting team members in overcoming challenges, and celebrating their successes.
  3. Take ownership of projects: Begin leading projects with confidence, setting clear goals, expectations, and deadlines with the team. Ownership also means being accountable for outcomes—stepping in when necessary but also empowering team members to take initiative.
  4. Drive results: Shift focus from observing to achieving tangible results through effective team leadership. Use metrics to measure progress against objectives set at the start of projects.
  5. Enhance communication: Managers should make sure communication channels within and outside the team are open and effective. Regular updates on project progress and any roadblocks encountered should be communicated clearly to stakeholders.
  6. Reflect on leadership style: Halfway through this period, managers should reflect upon their emerging leadership style. What's working well, and what might need adjustment based on feedback from the team?
  7. Foster professional development: Identify opportunities for team members’ growth based on their aspirations and skills gaps observed during the first 30 days.

This phase is pivotal because it not only demonstrates a manager’s ability to contribute meaningfully but solidifies their role as a leader who drives results while nurturing a positive team environment.

90-Day Plan: The Mastery and Growth Phase

In the final stretch of the 30-60-90 day plan, managers enter a phase geared toward mastery and growth. This period is about reflecting on achievements, reinforcing successful strategies, and setting a vision for continuous improvement.

  1. Evaluate team performance: Conduct comprehensive assessments of project outcomes and team dynamics. Recognize successes, and identify areas where adjustments are necessary.
  2. Implement process improvements: With a solid understanding of the team’s workflow, pinpoint processes that could be optimized for efficiency or effectiveness. Initiate changes that align with both short-term success and long-term objectives.
  3. Align managerial growth with team needs: Managers must reflect on personal development as leaders. They need to consider how their growth mirrors the needs of their team and contributes to the organization's goals.
  4. Plan for future development: Managers must set clear objectives for themselves and their team moving forward. Establish what milestones should be achieved in the coming months for continued progress and career development.
  5. Solicit feedback: Engage in another round of feedback from peers, superiors, and team members to gauge how recent changes have been received and what improvements can still be made.
  6. Reiterate commitment to the team’s success: Reinforce and reaffirm—the team should know their efforts are valued. Managers should show dedication to supporting team members' career paths and achieving collective goals.

This final phase cements a manager’s role not just as a leader but as an integral part of the team’s ongoing success story, ready to tackle future challenges together.

Hire Engineering Managers With Revelo

Embracing a new job within an organization, especially in engineering leadership, involves navigating technical and team dynamics with precision. The 30-60-90 day plan offers a strategic framework for this transition. It lets managers quickly assimilate, contribute significantly, and ultimately drive growth within their teams and projects. However, the journey of integrating new engineering managers begins—even before day one—with finding the right talent.

Building a successful engineering team starts with exceptional leadership. Revelo helps you find precisely that—top-tier engineering managers from Latin America ready to become embedded members of your team. Beyond matchmaking, we support you through negotiation, onboarding new employees, and compliance, ensuring a seamless integration of new hires.

Work with Revelo to improve your hiring strategy and let your leaders focus on what they do best.

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