Succession is notoriously botched. Now comes Joseph Bower with a new book (The CEO Within) about the importance of nurturing “Inside Outsiders” in succession planning. What kind of creature is that? As Bower puts it: “People from inside the company who somehow have maintained enough detachment from the local traditions, ideology and shibboleths that they have retained the objectivity of an outsider.”
Easier said than done, of course. It starts with recruiting. Bower suggests casting aside over-rated charisma in favor of qualities like originality, perserverence and integrity. Then you resist the temptation to let them simply rise in their function. They have to be moved around enough to get exposure and yet stay long enough to be held accountable (five years, at least).
What interests me are the various philosophies in managing a succession: handing over the baton (the current strategy at United Technologies Corp., which Bower describes as “rare, risky and difficult”) or the horse race (the method of choice at GE, which the author casts as “tough, divisive and chancy”). He doesn’t always have firm answers but it’s good food for thought.
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