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Alumni Stories · Leadership

How to navigate a leadership transition

Strategy Manager at CATERPILLAR discusses his experience in The First 90 Days program
July 2018

IMD’s program The First 90-Days is an interactive, 2-day learning journey, where executives in new leadership positions diagnose the situations they have inherited, define strategic direction, build their teams, create alliances, and secure early wins. And they establish a detailed action plan that shows them how to create successful momentum for their first 90 days. It is led by Professor Michael Watkins, author of the best-selling The First 90 Days.  

IMD recently caught up with Jérôme Balet, Strategy Manager at CATERPILLAR based in Munich to discuss his experience in the program. 

IMD: Why did you enroll to the First 90 days program?

Jérôme Balet: I did some reading up about Michael Watkins and I read the First 90 days Book and the 2-day program seemed to be a perfect fit for me as I am currently in transition, entering a new role with a new team to lead.

IMD: Was the timing of the program appropriate (within your first 90 days)?

Jérôme Balet: The job transition will be effective at the end of the summer so the timing of the program was right.

IMD: What elements of the toolkit and framework did you apply?

Jérôme Balet: I am working for a multinational company where change is a constant variable. What the program provided was a choice of solid methodologies that really help navigate many types of transitions. The transition road map was particularly useful to me. I also learned through the business cases we examined that you need to identify the right transition scheme by looking at location, people, and culture to define the best method. Most importantly you need to adapt to the situation.

IMD: Did you manage to identify key stakeholders and build alliances?

Jérôme Balet: I came to understand the importance of identifying political allies and influencers who are not necessarily senior managers but can be executives with longstanding experience in a specific position or department. Inside connections can be very important.

IMD: Were you able to secure early wins?

Jérôme Balet: Yes, and that was by setting simple and clear goals. 

IMD: How did the other participants enhance the experience, what was their contribution? 

The diversity of the participants and the interaction with the small teams contributed to this great experience. I was in a team composed of people from very different backgrounds, industries and companies (a woman based in China working for Beiersdorf about to return to Europe, a man working for a start-up in London specialized in a real estate/apartment sharing concept, a man from an NGO raising funds…).

This diversity allowed me to be exposed to different point of views about our personal transition scenarios. They provided excellent insights and good advice. Also, the fact that we were in a trusting environment, people open up quickly and can talk freely about their own experience, which is invaluable. Interpersonal skills are critical in a transition.

IMD: Any other comments?

Jérôme Balet: I intend to keep an eye on IMD’s portfolio and publications as it is important for me to continue learning and develop along my career.