Interestingly the research highlighted a negligible correlation related to company performance at the time of succession, i.e. ‘inheriting a thriving company is no golden wand, and inheriting an ailing company is no leaden shackle’. Whilst I disagree fundamentally that all the governing variables can be clustered under any universal rubric, the research can nevertheless be distilled under 5 broad components. See the diagram and my summarised comments below.
1. Tie together a plausible grounded narrative linked to the value drivers of the business and use biological language and metaphors as opposed to mechanistic ones. Biological thinking involves embracing adaptability, flexibility, uncertainty, and complexity. The spoken language used revolves around teams, partnership, openness, systems, and process.
2. Make changes at a pace that leverages the external opportunity and the internal capacity for change. Enough to stimulate but not overwhelm and, balance urgency and restraint. Timing is important but so is building the capabilities prior to execution, which in my experience is usually not thought through. CEOs also make multiple moves taking varied timescales to embed, over time these moves are seen as overlapping cycles rather than discrete ‘acts’.
3. Understand first and then reshape the expectations of different stakeholders, challenge assumptions, and educate the board on the new context. Accurately gauge the stakeholders level of alignment with the strategic vision, also anticipate and allay the concerns of activist stakeholders.
4. Select, align and seek the backing of the ELT, in cohort with them connect directly with a variety of leaders in the organisation. Activate positive energy and cascade purpose and values whilst breaking down the silos across the business.
5. Hand over a legacy, which is not an exercise in self- aggrandisement but handing over an improved and sustainable enterprise for successors to succeed in their turn. Legacy also involves handing over an improved enterprise that contributes to a better world.
Lesser, R., et al. (2018). "An Algorithm for a Successful 21st-Century CEO." BCG.
Luke from LinkedIn comments:
Very interesting. This raises some questions in my mind such as: what is success and how is it defined and measured? If there are multiple factors at play for the CEO the research summary indicates that there is not a single main factor but rather a balancing between them. The factors that appear to generate the greatest 'success' seem to pivot around sift skills, communication, stakeholder engagement, and influence. These generally take longer to gain traction than mechanic alternatives indicating the people factor in organisations. This is interesting given the airtime to AI and the pending claims of the machine world.
Great pick up Luke. We will get past our fascination for adding the word digital to many of our activity streams and in the process affirm that underpinning much of this is the human factor, or to be Digi savvy - The human, machine interface.