The CXO’s First 100 Days


Share on LinkedIn

Whenever a new president takes office talk turns to the vaunted first 100 days – Barack Obama’s 100 day clock is now ticking. We probably all agree that the expectations placed on the new president are pretty high, especially given the extent of the problems our economy is facing. In his 18-minute inauguration address, Mr. Obama promised “action, bold and swift,” but also used some nice sound bites to set expectations concerning how fast we might see results. Whatever the results, Obama will be in office for the next four years as he leads our nation through the “Raging Storms of War and Recession.”

On average, CXO’s cannot count on four years. In an earlier post (“Can Customer Value Be Calculated within Executive Months?”) I mentioned that statistics show that nearly 11 percent of executives will fail in their first year on the job, and according to Manchester Inc. nearly 40 percent won’t make it past the first 18 months in a new position. From the chart below you can see that not even the average CEO makes it for a full four year term.

CEO 44 months
CFO 39 months
CIO 36 months
CMO 26 months

Does this mean 100-day plans are useless in the business world? CXO’s often step into situations without a complete briefing as to all the problems or issues the company is facing. You’ve probably started out in the dark yourself a time or two … “Ok, where are the secret nuclear codes and why didn’t you give them to me on my first day” … All right, that comparison was a little over the top – but you get my meaning.

Almost every organization is really working from a sequence of short-term plans, so it would be disastrous for a CXO to think they have six, nine or 12 months to get up to speed. That means not having a plan coming into a tough situation would definitely be a mistake in my opinion. The goals of the plan do need to be realistic and based on the current state of the company. The plan also needs to be updated as you acquire new information and gain a better understanding of what you’ve walked into. A pretty good read on this subject is “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins.

This is not to say you are going to solve all the problems in the first 100 days with your documented plan. But, first impressions and beginning momentum are important to moving the company in a new direction, and all plans have to start somewhere.

BTW … did you see the WSJ front page headline today?

“Obama Freezes Top Salaries”

He seems to be off to a good start concerning his “bold and swift” statement – but that clock will keep ticking.

Alan See
Alan See is Principal and Chief Marketing Officer of CMO Temps, LLC. He is the American Marketing Association Marketer of the Year for Content Marketing and recognized as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential CMO's on Social Media" by Forbes. Alan is an active blogger and frequent presenter on topics that help organizations develop marketing strategies and sales initiatives to power profitable growth. Alan holds BBA and MBA degrees from Abilene Christian University.


  1. Hi Alan

    I second your recommendation of Michael Watkins’ excellent book, ‘The First 90 Days’. I have given away many copies to client staff, friends and fellow consultants when they have taken on new responsibilities.

    The book cautions against going into any new situation armed with pre-fabricated plans not based upon a complete understanding of the company, its situation, organisational networks and a feelng for what is possible. The first 90 days is all about filling in these gaps. Unless you are in a corporate turnaround – and most comanies are not, they are just in a deepening recession – it is far better to observe, learn and confirm before jumping to action.

    So in contrast to your suggestion, I think that having a hard and fast plan is a mistake for the vast majority of new CXOs. There is no wonder so many eager-beaver CXOs with their poorly-informed plans fail in the first year.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here