As Steve pointed out succession planning is the key, except that succession planning means different things in different organizational contexts. Many large companies pride themselves on succession planning and have elaborate IT systems and human resources has developed formal career paths. In a lean organization, if Toyota is any guide, these types of systems are only superficial for screening. One of the problems with trying to transform a traditional organization to lean is in fact the way the senior management was developed. They are often focused only on results and pay lip service to developing leaders who can follow a disciplined process for improvement, following clear values, who also develop the skills to coach and developing others. If the CEO has not developed to a very high level they can hardly develop potential candidates below them. And in an ideal lean system the process of developing leaders through challenge and coaching on a good improvement process has been going on for many years so people start developing early in their careers and continually deepen their skills and understanding taking on increasing challenges. Gary Convis and I describe this in The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership. A company with 10 years or less of lean has not had that opportunity to grow a strong bench of lean leaders and often the CEO stays out of direct involvement in self development. So this is the conundrum. On the other hand if the CEO is truly committed she will dedicate years to self development and then coaching others, with the help of an outside coach. The longer that CEO can stay in place, the greater the opportunity to develop a bench of leaders with proven capability as lean leaders and then it is a matter of selecting the best candidate. I believe there is a large advantage to selecting that successor from within, as an outsider does not understand the culture and has their own ideas about lean. By the way, Jim Collins found that the CEOs of all the great companies in his study were absolutely passionate about the business and learning in up, down and sideways, understanding deeply the environment, and developing successors through active coaching.
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