In the life of any organization, few events are as critical, visible or stressful as leadership changes. Yet, succession planning is rarely a priority, and too often given shorter shrift. Building a smart, effective transition pipeline – for multi-billion dollar conglomerates, family businesses, small start-ups or non-profits alike – is critical, says Noel Tichy, one of the few long-term gurus in management and leadership development, and needs to be put in its place: at the top of every leader’s agenda.
Finding and installing new leaders without slowing momentum is both an art and science, he explains. In fact, the high-stakes decision of who will lead an organization into a successful future is by far the most momentous that directors, CEOs or other senior leaders will ever make. Unfortunately, as many as 80 percent get it wrong, according to Tichy, who is well known for heading up GE’s leadership institute at Crotonville and revamping the company’s leadership pipeline under Jack Welch.
With his latest book, “Succession: Mastering the Make or Break Process of Leadership Transition,” (Portfolio, Nov. 13, 2014), Tichy intends to help more organizations get it right. His insider’s look draws from decades of hands-on experience advising Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia, Intel, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Merck and Caterpillar; he also points to other high-profile, revealing case studies like HP, IBM, Intel and P&G to examine why some companies fail and others succeed in training and sustaining the next generation of leaders.
Leadership transition is an integral process that begins long before the outgoing leader departs – voluntarily or otherwise. And as more Baby Boomer executives retire and economic trends continue to point toward leaner times, succession planning at every level, not just in the C-suite, is increasingly essential.
Leadership development is core to succession planning too, as more organizations reap the value of investing in growing and promoting talent from within. Embed it into your organization’s genes, urges Tichy, a professor of management and organizations at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
You might also be interested in Tichy’s video interview with Yahoo! about the succession plans of Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch. It seems even these business moguls have much to learn before handing off the reigns of their empires.