Sunday, January 22, 2017

Monday Musing 277- The curious case of crown transfers

Monday Musing 276- The curious case of crown transfers

It seems to be a season of the issue of succession planning - or rather the lack of it. Looks like nature has discovered the problem with  a renewed vigor and if i were to twist Voltaire a bit then it might be prudent to pronounce that 'no one can escape a problem whose time has finally come''

Let us look at all the theaters around - and may be we should begin with the theater of the absurd- politics. Mulayam Singh Yadav just discovered to his horror that he is no longer calling the shots in an organisation that he painstakingly built. In what can be called as a text book case of the palace intrigue, this was a case of succession plan gone horribly wrong. This is exactly what happens when the new incumbent is given the role but the old guard wants to retain relevance through back room remote control. The founder leader and the generation that built the organisation and made it stand for  something, chose the segments that it wants to operate in, bring the kind of people onboard that they thought will take the organisation forward - were forsaken by the new leader who had different ideas on all these issues. A clash was inevitable. The power had been passed over but looks like it was really not - and a decisive flashpoint was critical to complete the process of succession. 

The closest story in the business world that mimics the case above appears to be the Tata saga on which much has been written. The pattern seems the same. A new leader is given the role but the old one is hesitant to 'let go'. Rest all is a matter of detail. 

So the question that the issue of succession plan really begs to be addresses is as follows - just because a new incumbent gets a role, has the power transfer really happened - particularly when the previous role holder still remains in the organisation in some role or the other? If no then do we really expect the new role holder to 'not ruffle feathers' in the interest of peace and stability? Is a flashpoint the only way to a permanent transfer of power, however paradoxical that may sound? Last but not the least what happens when the fault lines are not as dramatic as the two examples above but is more subtle, more below the radar but is always the 'elephant in the room' that robs the role of its true and complete effectiveness. 

Let's look at two more examples - the queen of AIADMK dies without a leader worth its salt - its bucket of woes as far as palace intrigue is concerned is just about to begin. I think things will only deteriorate from here before they even show early signs of improving. The situation is no different in the DMK or Trinamool or frankly in most other parties. There is no successor with stature.

The same is true for many departments and many companies. Succession is the sword of Damocles that hangs all the time. There are processes for sure and each company has them in small measure or large, to different degrees of maturity - but what is undeniable in each case is 'lack of stature' - a lack of immediate readiness if you will! The question that again begs attention in all the above cases is WHY? Are the forces that are operating in all the theatres above causing this lack of successor with stature the same or different? 

Successors are not built in a day. They also need free air to blossom. They will make mistakes and they have to be allowed the space for making those mistakes. But before all of this happens the contentious issue of the old guard will have to be addressed. How does one make a revered old Hawk create circumstances for his own redundancy. There in lies the tale! Rest all is easy. 

Postscript - Then there is the case of the Congress which highlights a very different dimension of succession planning. What happens when the transfer of power is smooth but the new role holder is plain incompetent. May be that is a subject of yet another musing.