Succession by Noel Tichy
November 12, 2014
Noel Tichy's new book is likely to become the go-to book on leadership succession, because Tichy is the perfect person to write it.
Succession: Mastering the Make-Or-Break Process of Leadership Transition is likely to become the go-to book on leadership succession, because Tichy is the perfect person to write it. He has "more than three decades of developing ... and selecting leaders for some of the highest performing organizations in the world," and was hired by Jack Welch to not only lead GE's famed leadership development center at Crotonville (the place that spawned "the first true corporate leadership curriculum in the world," and would be "emulated by Harvard and other leading schools ... as they developed their own leadership programs."), but transform it from a place of abstract intellectual debate into a cauldron of actionable ideas for GE.
Under his watch:
Participants at Crotonville would start spending all of the time there solving real GE challenges while learning business acumen, team building, and organizational transformation. These action learning projects ... would take place in real time, all over the world, and would be designed to frame and tackle a wide range a major strategic challenges facing the company. In all cases, these teams ... would return to Crotonville prepared to present their recommendations to Welch and a cadre of senior leaders.Obviously, most companies cannot undertake this kind of process for polishing leadership, but between Tichy's uncommon experience at GE and the kind of fly-on-the-wall examples he gives us of other leadership successions in the book—starting with those that got it wrong before moving onto to those that got it right—there is a wealth of wisdom to tap into here. And it's not just for large, multinational companies or those with their own leadership institutes. Chapter 8 and 9 detail the Building of a Succession Pipeline in Family Organizations and for Nonprofit Organizations, and he calls out the institutional reliance on procedure over politics early in the introduction.
[I]nstitutions don't matter if the current generation of top leaders, most importantly the CEO, isn't deeply involved in every stage of the process.Of course, politics and culture are an importance piece in any planning, not just succession planning, but nothing can poison the political and cultural well of an entire company more than an ill-considered or poorly planned transition in leadership at the top of it. And so, Tichy offers this unsolicited advice:
That issue underscores a great fallacy, which over the years has grown into something of a monstrous Mothra, that leads even the most well-meaning of leaders and organizations to slavishly copy and overemphasize the technical aspects of the process and virtually ignore, evade, or fatally misunderstand the far subtler, much more difficult, and ultimately far more important determinate if success: the political and cultural dimensions of succession planning, leadership assessment and evaluation, CEO selection, and executive transition.
This is the most important people judgment call any organization will ever make, and by far the best way to get it dead wrong is by proceeding under the fatal delusion that you've got it all figured out and buttoned up, and just need the right format, framework, and formula to put your plan into action.To steer clear of these delusions, pick up a copy of Noel Tichy's Succession, or better yet win one right here.