CEO Succession Planning – ‘Managing Dynamics with Predecessor’

In the last few days, we have seen incidents where succession planning has not gone as per desired script. Are there learning’s for organizational leaders and HR professionals on succession planning at CEO levels, especially in cases the predecessor continues to be an important “influencer” in the system. This note focuses on what successors should do when they take over the new assignment.

From the analysis there emerged five areas which successors should take care (Please read all “she” as “he/she”and “her” as “him/her”)

  • While a Successor (B) gets moving in line with the organization vision and strategy, it is important for her to judge the elements that she will preserve and the elements that she will change.
  • B needs to achieve not only the stated and explicit goals, but needs to figure out the unstated expectations from the role.
  • While choosing to develop a new team, B needs to be sensitive to ensure a harmonious relationship between new team members and individuals who have been in system for long, especially those considered close to A.
  • Establish personal and professional relationship with A. It is always good to get A’s blessings and keep her in the loop on what is happening / how things are shaping out. After an initial period, A and B could work out the working relationship.
  • Develop relationship with board members and other key influencers. This can help in pushing ideas and eventually create space for self.

I am sure like me many would have had to manage these transitions. And the success would be measured in organizations having a smooth CEO Succession transition. Please feel free to pass on feedback, if any.

Don’t just chase Lakhshmi, but Mahalakshmi

Diwali is all about celebrating victory in togetherness, of light over darkness, of community, collaboration, and oneness. It’s about the grace of Devi Mahalakshmi being showered at its peak on this day. It is about the union of different goddesses or energy forms if one likes to call that way, of Lakshmi( focus & commitment on lakshya), kali ( strength & courage) and Saraswati ( knowledge & humility) to grace us in our pursuit towards any mahalakshya, whether personal, business or social. Individually goddesses are powerful in their own rights but the real power emerges when all of them unite together.

If you are a business leader or captain of a sports team or a movie director, success is possible only when true collaboration and teamwork happens amongst all the three creative energies. One cannot win a cricket match if the only batting lineup is strong or when only fielding is strong. You need to perform on all the three fronts of batting, fielding, and bowling to win matches.

Many business owners tend to focus on only finance and marketing and overlook other critical functions like hr or technology.the team members from marketing are treated like sons by owners and the other guys as step-sons. Other functions are not given due importance and as a result, the business loses its competitive advantage. Businesses are ultra competitive nowadays and to win over the competition, the only job of the business leaders is to get the best talent for all the functions and foster the true spirit of collaboration.

Movie making is also a big business and there are strong chances of failures often. Very few films succeed. Few might work at times because of sheer star-power but real good memorable ones are possible only because of true collaboration. It’s a very collaborative field and businesses can learn a lot of lessons from success and failures of movies.

A good movie cannot be made with just star power which could be called as kali in this context. However, the star-power in a movie brings two things to the table, 1) their power of intense performance and secondly 2) their power to pull the crowd for the opening few shows because of their popularity and charm. However, an equal role of Saraswati and Lakshmi is a must to make a good memorable film. Saraswati personifies knowledge and humility and in the film making context, one can say it brings two things, 1) good script with right music (devi with book and veena in her hands) and 2) right visualization and direction. However, Saraswati is the most neglected and underrated in the Indian film industry. One pays very high to kali and gives peanuts to writers and that’s the major reason for a majority of flops in the industry. A star might get 30 crores and the poor writer not even 30 lacs. One of the renowned writer of path-breaking film Rang de Basanti, Kamlesh Pandey once said, “in our industry writers are like condoms, you use it and then throw it or hide in a place where nobody can see it. We writers don’t get our dues.” but if one sees the real super-hit films like 3 Idiots or Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge etc, these are majorly successful because of a superscript. Kali did its job very well but Saraswati is where it starts and originates. If you have shallow content, it won’t work in spite of a great superstar. There are innumerable examples of that. However, if the Saraswati is great and even if the kali is not that known, it has high chances of giving results.

Now, let’s discuss a bit about the most revered lady. Lakshmi in the above movie case does not just bring money but it serves two purposes of 1) committing money 2) understanding of the objective, i.e. lakshya. It is the job of the producer or the money-guy to clearly see if the movie would resonate with the target audience one defines at the beginning itself. Many successful movie makers make movies on the subjects of their own personal interest or passion but fail to understand that it might not connect with the audience. Similarly, many business owners plan ventures based on their gut and do not clearly think of the end user. A super director like Sanjay Leela Bhansali made a film like guzaarish. He is a brilliant director whom I really respect but one thing where I believe he went wrong is in understanding the lakshya. In my humble submission, the audience would not connect much with the story of a paralyzed magician making a petition to courts for ending his life. There was a great director and script in the form of saraswati, a great performance by Hrithik Roshan in the form of kali and good money was committed but where it lacked was in understanding that the audience might not like the sad story of ending a life. May be the Indian audience was not that mature. So, the understanding of the lakshya, the objective, which in this case is the audience is of paramount importance and that is the job of the moneyed guy.

Kali would have its own tantrums, Saraswati would not know much about money and lakshmi would just focus on returns. But to make a real superior product, all the three have to align together and collectively work towards the overall objective which one can call as mahallakshay.

The point one is trying to make here is that business is all about risk and returns. There are huge risks always but if one really respects all the facets and functions and does a true collaboration, there would be far higher chances of success. All the three devices need to come together and give their best to achieve real success. To link it to the business context, finance guys only focus on finance, marketing folks are only bothered about brand and the hype. But to make a real success of the enterprise, one has to really understand well the customer, that’s the lakshya. Only putting money in a venture is not enough. Money with understanding of lakshya is true Lakshmi and when joined by Kali and Saraswati, it becomes Mahalakshmi and magic happens.

Wishing you all achieve your goals and objectives. My prayers to maa mahalakshmi for a great diwali. Keep achieving and shining!!!