You\u2019ve just stepped into your new IT leadership role.\u00a0 And you know from reading my previous article that the first 90 days are crucial to your success.\nYou thought you had a good understanding about the challenges and opportunities you would be facing.\u00a0 But now that you\u2019re actually on the job, you see the situation is much more complex and the problems even greater than you were told.\u00a0 Your team members are anxious to get you involved in their issues; and your business partners are already frustrated with pent up demand.\nWhat issue do you address first?\nIt\u2019s a war zone out there!\nUnless you are taking on a new IT leadership role with green fields (no preexisting systems or teams in place), then chances are you\u2019re stepping into an environment with moderate to serious issues. This is just the nature of information technology organizations. You might be encountering any of the following:\n\nInherited applications or technologies that break a lot and interrupt business functions.\nSystems that are so outdated that they provided limited capabilities to the business.\nCritical projects that are behind schedule and fraught with problems.\nTeam members who seem to have a long history of performance issues.\n\nThe land mines aren\u2019t obvious\nWhile any of the above issues might be worthy of your time, it\u2019s important that you don\u2019t get sucked into any one issue right off the bat.\nWhy? Because you don\u2019t have enough information right now and you may end up diverting your time and attention to the wrong thing.\nAnd this could mean disaster for your reputation and long-term success at the company.\nYou need to do reconnaissance\nRight now your mission is to get the lay of the land. To hear from a wide variety of people to get the broadest perspective possible. \u00a0This starts with\u00a0your manager, team members, peers and business partners.\nYou should also include other IT organizations that play a role in your success. For example, if you manage a software development team, you want to include infrastructure, quality assurance, the project management office, security and other IT areas that might impact your team\u2019s success.\nYou are going to learn a lot through these conversations, and themes may start to develop. For example, you may hear from multiple parties about the slow network performance, or the high number of defects from the software your team supports.\nYou are also going to learn about the company\u2019s culture and politics. You will get a feel for what the company values, who wields the power, how decisions get made, how initiatives get funded, how performance is measured, the company\u2019s appetite for change, and many other insights. Pay attention to these insights because they WILL have an impact on your future success.\nMichael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, remarked:\nThe risks obviously are highest for new leaders coming in from the outside. They often have grown up in another organizational culture that has become so familiar that it's like the air that they breathe. Then they are thrust into a culture with very different norms, and they really struggle.\nCreate your tactical plan\nYou need a plan to listen, learn, and validate to make the most of your first 90 days. Here\u2019s what you need to include in your tactical plan:\n\nIdentify initial list of people to interview.\u00a0 Ask your manager and team members for their thoughts on who you should be on this list.\u00a0 You can also ask the people who participated in your interview process.\nSchedule your interviews.\u00a0 Most interviews should be 30 minutes.\u00a0 Unless company culture dictates otherwise, it is most common for you to go to their office or cubicle to meet. \u00a0Requesting they come to your office may make you look arrogant or insensitive.\nRecap each interview.\u00a0 Capture your thoughts immediately after each interview. \u00a0Allow at least 15 minutes after each interview to do so.\u00a0 This is important \u2013 don\u2019t skip this step!\nKeep refining your list.\u00a0 Ask each person you interview who else should be on your interview list.\u00a0 But don\u2019t overstretch yourself.\u00a0 Prioritize your list based on importance and get to those people first.\nHave your list of questions prepared.\u00a0Show up for your interview armed with a list of questions.\u00a0 You can start with soft questions like \u201ctell me what attracted you to the company\u201d, or \u201chelp me understand your role\u201d.\u00a0 This will help create rapport and let the other person know you are genuinely interested in them.\u00a0\nAsk questions specific to your area of accountability.\u00a0Some of the questions you might ask are:\n\nWhat business goals are you accountable for?\nHow does my team contribute to those goals?\nWhat is working well?\nWhat needs improvement?\nHow easy or hard is it to do business with my team?\nHow do you measure the value you receive from my team?\nWhat one thing do you wish I could change?\nWhat one thing do you hope I don\u2019t change?\n\n\nValidate issues.\u00a0 If you uncover an issue during your interviews, you want to validate whether the issue is real or if it is perception.\u00a0You may need to circle back to some people with follow-up questions.\nBrief your manager on findings.\u00a0Be sure to first mention the things that are working well.\u00a0 Too often we focus on what\u2019s broken or the things we want to change, without giving kudos to things that are performing well. \u00a0Mention areas for improvement along with an order of priority.\u00a0 If you\u2019ve uncovered a quick win that you and your team could take on, note that as well.\n\nYour turn!\nWhat other questions might an IT leader ask during these interviews? Share your thoughts with us!