Question: Last November our president and founder announced that over the next three years he is going to slowly remove himself from day-to-day operation of the company in order to give more attention to his charity work. That came as a big surprise to many of us. Having been with the company for the past 10 years, I’ve seen the impact he’s had on the company. In many ways, he is the company. He’s had a hand in everything we’ve done since I’ve been here. While many of us are excited about the changes this brings, there’s also the uncertainty about who will replace him and how and when it will happen. Frankly, I don’t think one person can fill his shoes. We’ll all have to step forward to make stronger contributions. Right now, at his suggestion, we’re operating with an “executive board” of six senior managers, from a group of 28 supervisors and managers, making the decisions. That is a big change from the past where one person made the calls, and we’re experiencing some growing pains. Can you offer us any ideas to move forward?
Answer: What you are describing is a major change for your organization. The people who occupy the top level principally shape the culture of any organization. In your case, you have described your president as a visible and involved leader. He has been the architect of the organization. As its founder, I’m sure that he lived and breathed it. Now he has decided to pass the torch to someone else. From what you say, however, to whom the torch will be passed remains unclear. That is disquieting, but in light of the three-year window, there is time to develop a systematic succession plan. In order for that to happen, you will need to build and deploy a strong management-development program.
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