Noel Tichy’s latest masterpiece, Succession: A book review by Bob

SuccessionSuccession: Mastering the Make-or-Break Process of Leadership Transition
Noel M. Tichy
Portfolio/Penguin (2014)

How and why leadership succession at all levels and in all areas is a continuous process to sustain organizational regeneration

I know of no one else who has made more – and more valuable – contributions to a subject that has generated, the last time I checked Amazon’s offerings, more than 129,000 volumes in the general category of leadership and more than 53,000 of them focus on business leadership. Several of his previous books explain what effective leadership development requires. His latest book focuses on leadership succession at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.

As he explains, “At the most basic level, leadership succession and transition is a continuous process of organizational transformation: a people decision, an organizational decision, and a strategy decision all rolled into one, with not infrequently [i.e. frequently] a crisis call thrown in for good measure…leadership succession And transition is simply [?] the most politically and culturally charged, technically challenged, and critical leadership assignment of all the many judgments that business leaders are obliged to make in the course of doing their jobs. And, for that very reason, it is at least as easy to get wrong as it is tough to get it right.”

Tichy provides in this single volume just about all any company needs to “get it right.” More specifically, a wealth of information, insights, and counsel based on several decades of his experience, research, and analysis of hundreds of quite different companies. He devotes the first 345 pages to a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effect system within which to sustain the aforementioned process of organizational transformation. Then he adds a book-within-a-book, Succession Planning: A Process Handbook, co-authored by Chris DeRose and Tichy with Don Pryzgodski. This “Handbook” (Pages 349-385), all by itself, is worth far more than the total cost of the entire book as is the material that follows: Appendix 1 (Teaching Instructions) and another treasure, Action Learning: Simultaneous Development and Succession Planning Handbook, co-authored with DeRose.

In the mid 1980s, Tichy was head of GE’s Leadership Center; later, the author of more than a dozen books and a hundred articles about all aspects of leadership development. Currently, he is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. He is also the director of the Global Business Partnership, which for over a decade ran the Global Leadership Program, a 36-company consortium of Japanese, European and North American companies who partnered to develop senior executives and conduct action research on globalization in China, India, Russia and Brazil. He now heads up the Global Leadership in Healthcare Program working with CEOs and their senior teams from major medical centers in the U.S. along with teams in Europe and India.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Tichy’s coverage in this, his latest book:

o Defining Leadership Success (Pages 28-30)
o Seven Factors of Leadership Failure (32-51)
o Getting It Right at DuPont (73-82)
o Getting It Right at Steelcase (86-96)
o Getting It Right at Ameritech (96-102)
o Six CEO Succession Rules (105-114)
o Getting It Right at P&G (Twice): A.G. Lafley, the “Accidental CEO” (115-121)
o Getting HR Right: The Key Building Blocks (131-134)
o Getting HR Right: Strategic Human Resources at IBM (146-153)
o Getting It Wrong at Royal Dutch Shell (161-168)
o Seven Board Succession Best Practices (183-186)
o Ten Principles for Finding the Right CEO (187)
o Getting It Wrong at JCPenney (200-207)
o Getting It Right at Ford (Finally!) Pages 218-221
o Getting It Right at Boeing (224-229)
o Getting It Right at Allied Signal (230-232)
o Getting It Right at Honeywell (232-234)

Note: The “getting it right” mini-case studies, actually what I call “snapshots,” are based on immensely complicated situations. With consummate skill, Tichy focuses on the key point or take-away. This is a brilliant device I wish more business authors employed.

o The Meritocratic Solution (249-252)
o S.C. Johnson & Son: The Gold Standard for Family Businesses (263-269)
o The Four Trends to Which All Future CEOs Will Need to Adapt (318-328)
o Learning from Best Practices (333-338)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the scope and depth of material provided in this (believe it or not) single source. However, I hope I have indicated why I think so highly of Noel Tichy and his work. Bravo!

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