The first 100 days: what the new CMO of WeWork needs to do
A view from Marc Brown

The first 100 days: what the new CMO of WeWork needs to do

Maurice Lévy has a task on his hands to help turn around the shared workspace company. Here's the approach he should take.

It has been a fortnight since Maurice Lévy joined WeWork as the new interim chief marketing officer – an unenviable position that has been eroded over the years. Alongside Lévy, Ralf Wenzel, Mike Bucy and Matt Jahansouz have joined as chief product officer, chief transformation officer and chief people officer respectively – each with a piece of the legacy CMO pie.

It feels like the decade has been full of high-profile CMOs announcing their departure from the company they joined just a few years before. The top marketer role has the shortest tenure of any member of the C-suite and CMO tenures are also often defined by their first 100 days, which offer both the flexibility of a "honeymoon period" and the opportunity to make a positive impression.

To succeed, Lévy requires a strong six-phase plan for the first 100 days. This will enable him to establish clear expectations with the chief executive, talk with customers, assess the marketing team, establish priorities, build key relationships and show quick wins.

Phase 1: Communicate (days 0 to 100)

The "communicate" phase spans the full transition and is critical for success. One needs to focus on communication elements in each of the distinct phases, from interviewing key stakeholders and the CEO before day one to using data to tell your story to reviewing key performance indicators in the "measure" phase (which we’ll get to).

Phase 2: Prepare (days 10 to 15)

The "prepare" phase is all about assessing, or reassessing, cultural fit with the organisation, understanding CEO expectations and developing a conversational fluency. Ensure that expectations are aligned and start your process to mitigate team change-aversion. A key question is: can Lévy envision himself as the single most passionate brand ambassador on the payroll?

As the new CMO, you're not expected to show up with all of the answers. In fact, that's a common and often fatal mistake; it takes time to learn the ins and outs of any business. But you are expected to show up with an outline of what you plan to accomplish, how you will execute and a list of intelligent questions informed by your own research and reflection to drive alignment with the CEO.

Phase 3: Assess (days 0 to 30)

One must use the assess phase to benchmark your team’s performance, organisational maturity level and whether or not your team has the skills, resources, operating model and culture to deliver corporate goals and priorities. Establish agency relationships and meet with customers. Lévy should use the first 30 days to conduct a maturity assessment and evaluate marketing spend. In this phase, it’s also important for him to share his process and time-frame while keeping stakeholders apprised.

At this stage, Lévy should start to see patterns and form the hypotheses that will ultimately inform his strategic positions. He would have started his listening campaign with key stakeholders, getting internal information on what needs to be done. 

Phase 4: Plan (days 15 to 45)

Next is the "plan" phase, which overlaps with the "assess" phase, to baseline the marketing strategy, identify critical imperatives, assess and address capacity for change, and develop plans for early wins. Even though Lévy may be starting to see some patterns form, he can’t get ahead of himself. It will take time to fully understand organisational dynamics at the proper depth before he can feel comfortable making larger, more sweeping decisions.

Phase 5: Act (days 30 to 80)

In the "act" phase, Lévy must communicate and prove his strategic assertions, gain trust and gather operational feedback. By this time, he’ll have a grounded point of view on what needs to get done and the discipline to contain his team’s enthusiasm to a series of time- and resource-bound areas of focus. A good idea is to kick off a test project from his marketing plan and meet daily with the test project team to detail the accomplishments from yesterday, priorities for today and any roadblocks to progress.

The "act" phase is all about Lévy’s first mobilisation of forces. It's about execution, but it's not yet at scale. Here, the goal is to prove assumptions and gain the legitimacy to extend investments. It's also about understanding what it means to get work done in this company – how processes work, how power flows and how teams work together to accomplish tasks.

Phase 6: Measure (days 45 to 100)

In the "measure" phase, Lévy should assess outcomes relative to his initial 100-day onboarding plan and use it to identify new insights, showcase early wins, roll out new organisational refinements and update processes. 

Marc Brown is senior research director at the Gartner for Marketers practice