Planejamento sucessório

Succession planning
Aug 11th 2008
The Economist

The idea that finding a successor to the current chief executive of an organisation is a process that should be planned and executed methodically has gathered strength in recent years. It seems, however, to be one of those rare processes that get worse with practice. CEOs have been turning over like never before. One survey of American quoted companies calculated that every day in 2006 six CEOs left their job—either because they were sacked or because they jumped just before being sacked.

There are two types of literature on succession planning:

• That which looks at ways of finding a successor to the family (or small private) business. The difficulties here are usually linked to the incumbent/founder’s failure to take on board his own mortality, or his inability to tell his beloved second child that (after his death or retirement) there can be only one chief executive.

• That which looks at finding a successor to the chief executive of a large public corporation. The focus here has shifted in recent years to take in a wider constituency. Despite some writers’ insistence that finding a successor is the biggest responsibility of any chief executive, no company now makes it a matter for the chief executive alone. If left to their own devices, chief executives, like the rest of us, are inclined to replace themselves with a clone (on the grounds that such a person is without doubt the best person for the job).

In both cases (in the family business and the public company), there is general agreement that it is not wise to leave the choice of a successor to the last minute. Any future chief executive needs to be groomed and to have a handover period when the baton of responsibility is passed from one to the other. “One of the biggest tasks I face as CEO”, said Craigie Zildjian, CEO of the oldest family business in the United States, “is getting succession right.”

Firms increasingly turn to outside headhunters or consultants to help them choose their next chief executive. These outsiders may suggest a suitable internal candidate or seek to entice an external candidate to the post. Until the last two decades of the 20th century, most chief executives of large companies were appointed from inside their organisations. Long experience of the company’s business was considered an important qualification for the job. But by the end of the century many more high-flying managers were changing employer in mid-career. In 1988, on average, an executive worked for fewer than three employees in his lifetime; ten years later that average had risen to more than five. It has become increasingly common for new CEOs to be complete outsiders.

A variety of types of successor have been identified:

• The inside outsider. The employee whose leadership style is completely different from that of their predecessor. This sort of appointment is made by a company in need of a drastic change in strategic direction. A classic appointment of an inside outsider was that of Sir John Harvey-Jones as boss of ICI in 1982.

• The outside insider. The person who knows a lot about the company but does not actually work for it. Such a person has the objective view of the outsider without the complete ignorance that is the outsider’s main drawback. Examples of outside insiders include the many management consultants who have gone on to head companies that they have advised.

• The horse-race winner. The internal candidate who is publicly set against other internal candidates and told to compete for the job. Classic examples of this are the three-horse race set up by Walter Wriston to decide on his successor at Citicorp in 1984 (the winner was the then youthful John Reed).

• The boss’s pet. This is the candidate who is hand-picked and personally groomed by the existing chief executive over an extended period of time.

A growing number of former CEOs are being called back to run the companies that they have left (Michael Dell at Dell Computer, for instance, and Harry Stonecipher at Boeing). One returning CEO advised others that they should “think twice” before they do it. “It means not only that your successor failed, but that you did too—at succession planning.”

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