A poorly planned or sloppy transition in leadership can
cause upheaval in an organization. When clear communication is overwhelmed by
rumors and missteps employees will quit or become disenchanted and spend more
time monitoring the latest gossip than getting work done. Business suffers,
customers suffer and company image is damaged.
Barack Obama presents a model for senior leadership change. Planning for
transition began well before the election to set the stage for an organized,
orderly approach. The first step in avoiding a messy leadership change is
creating a plan.
be impossible. But when time permits planning can begin as soon as the
transition is anticipated. Planning can begin before a new leader is hired, or
in place. Responsibilities and reporting relationships should be identified to
avoid a vacuum before a role is filled. The Obama transition started with the
identification of teams each with responsibility for different parts of
government. Companies may not need multiple teams, a small team or group of key
contacts can start the process. President-elect Obama spoke to previous Presidents to seek
advice about the transition. He reviewed accounts of the successes and missteps
of previous administrations, disregarding party affiliation to gain insight. Corporate
transitions can include conversations with previous leaders as well as
customers and business partners.
Meetings with government agencies and information
availability and gathering provide a model for corporate transitions. These
steps can be replicated with a calendar, formal and informal meetings and
information sharing. Barack Obama’s team has access to Presidential Transition
Resources that includes organization charts, directories, policies and even a
list of commonly used abbreviations and acronyms. This is a perfect too-do list
for any organization.
Time spent with the incumbent in the position can be tricky.
A few months can seem like an eternity for the new person who is eager to dive
into the job and make changes. This time will be better spent if there are
specific goals and targets. A plan for knowledge sharing will identify the
optimal timeline for the overlap. The incumbent may not be the best person to
create this plan, let the transition team take on this task. If the transition
occurs after a senior leader has left a plan will still be valuable to ensure that
the new leader has the tools and back up they need.
positions as the President needs to fill. In an ownership change they may bring
a new executive team. In most situations trusted employees will be brought in
to fill gaps and add strengths. Spending time getting to know key staff members
is essential in any transition.
It’s too early to tell whether the next transition in
government will be successful. It’s never too early to take steps to ensure the
success of your own internal transitions.