If the CEOs are Vetting the Next Leaders, You'd Better Have Big Enough CEOs

Forrest Christian Managing Leave a Comment

A colleague sent an announcement for the Oliver Wyman Journal. They had an article on succession planning (“Bench Strength: How are you developing your highpotential leaders?” by Steve Krupp) that had some interesting thoughts on the problem.

The CEO must own and sponsor the process. No major initiative within an organization will succeed unless the CEO champions the efforts….

General Motors’ CEO also takes a hands-on approach and “personally vets the 100 people in the top-most high-potential pool, said Philippe De Schryver, director of global talent management. “He ‘owns’ the high-potentials.”

If we have to count on GM’s current executives to identify and develop the team that has to solve all the problems that they have been creating for the company since the 1960s. The problem is that people are really unlikely to put someone who is in a higher mode than they into the succession plan, because this high-potential has the potential to take the CEO’s job. Which is why Stalin killed all the bright young things after they got so old.

It’s amazing how poorly GM’s executives have done their jobs over the last 40 years. With a company that big, it’s possible to kill it in a few days (ala Enron and Worldcom) but it’s more likely to slowly fade away. GM has some very competent folks in the middle, and they’ve been keeping the business afloat.

Fun fact: Did you know that the vast majority of America’s 1980s losses in marketshare to the Japanese automakers came from GM?

Why would you entrust the people who got you into this mess with choosing the people to get you out of it?

Mark Van Clieaf’s articles on CEO compensation may be appropriate to look at here.

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