Resources for transition planning

In this third article on the theme of transition planning we recommend some resources for the newly appointed leader/executive and for organisations reviewing their support for the later stages of executive on-boarding and transition support. (Articles one and two are linked).

Career Transitions

  • “Navigating major career transitions” is a recommended short interview with Michael Watkins. The video is available here
  • “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins. Publication Date: 1 Oct 2003. ISBN-10: 1591391105. ISBN-13: 978-1591391104

Since its original release, “The First 90 Days”  has become the bestselling globally acknowledged bible of leadership and career transitions. In this updated and expanded 10th anniversary edition, internationally known leadership transition expert Michael D. Watkins gives you the keys to successfully negotiating your next move—whether you’re onboarding into a new company, being promoted internally, or embarking on an international assignment.

In “The First 90 Days”, Watkins outlines proven strategies that will dramatically shorten the time it takes to reach what he calls the “breakeven point” when your organisation needs you as much as you need the job. This new edition includes a substantial new preface by the author on the new definition of a career as a series of transitions; and notes the growing need for effective and repeatable skills for moving through these changes. As well, updated statistics and new tools make this book more reader-friendly and useful than ever.

This book contains five fundamental propositions:

  1. Transition failures happen when new leaders either misunderstand the essential demands of the situation or lack the skill and flexibility to adapt to them.
  2. There are systematic methods that leaders can employ to both lessen the likelihood of failure, and ensure that they reach the breakeven point faster.
  3. The over-riding goal in a transition is to build momentum by creating virtuous cycles that build credibility, and avoid getting caught in the vicious cycles that damage credibility As a vicious cycle takes hold, the organisation’s immune system gets activated and the new leader is attacked by clumps of ‘killer cells’, encapsulated, and finally expelled; it’s not nice, and it can get messy.
  4. Transitions are a crucible for leadership development and should be managed accordingly. They are an indispensable development experience for every company’s high-potential leaders.
  5. Adoption of a standard framework for accelerating transitions can yield big returns for organisations.

CEO Succession

  • “The Successors Dilemma” by Dan Ciampa and Michael Watkins. Harvard Business Publishing. PDF.  Available online here.

This article is focused on CEO succession. Botched leadership transitions occur with alarming frequency. Dan Ciampa and Michael Watkins, who have counselled senior executives and successors through more than 100 leadership transitions in the past 25 years, point to the successor’s dilemma as the dominant cause of failed leadership transitions. The dilemma is an emotionally charged power struggle played out between the CEO and his/her would-be heir. Ciampa and Watkins describe the way the problem builds on both sides of the desk–the CEO’s fear of giving up control versus the designated successor’s need to enact the changes expected of him/her and prove himself / herself to the board. They cite anecdotal evidence and their own research to suggest that this complex psychological dynamic leads CEO-successor relations astray and can block the successor’s path to the top spot. But the authors also offer four ways for the would-be heir to overcome the successor’s dilemma. These include gauging the CEO’s readiness to leave before accepting the number two spot, maintaining regular communication with the CEO despite ever-present obstacles such as travel and business schedules, and developing and using a balanced personal advice network to help navigate the shift in power. The authors stress that defusing the problem is the responsibility of the successor, not the CEO. The reason is simple: the successor has the most to lose.

  • “Blessings or curses? Succession in organisational existence”

Available on-line here.

A reflective, Grubb Institute paper examining the relationship between individualism and corporate life partly through the lens provided by the Biblical narrative of Jacob and Esau.


Author: Vitas Consult