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I chose SoftBank as the global organization to analyze for succession planning. It is a multibillion-dollar Japanese investment company that is also known for owning shares in Uber, Netflix, Facebook, and dozens of other companies (Kana, 2022). There is a very loose succession plan for the founder and CEO, Masayoshi Son. Due to the connections with other organizations through investments, leaders from other organizations like Sprint, Vision Fund, and Goldman Sachs were perceived to be candidates to take over the company, though SoftBank never made announcements publicly (Kana, 2022). The leaders of those organizations have since stepped down or taken on lesser roles and are out of the running (Kana, 2022). SoftBank is struggling to find people within its own ranks to fill the CEO position as Son’s health declines because no one has the skillset needed (Kana, 2022). Over the past few years, as recently as 2016, there was a plan to have leaders like Google executive, Nikesh Arora, take over SoftBank, but the relationship soured when Son decided to remain head of the company (Kana, 2022).
It is as if there is no plan at all for succession and now the organization is floundering attempting to fit someone into the position as quickly as possible. Son is clearly not ready to give up his power as the leader because he has not partnered with anyone to teach them the culture or strategy of the business. Tarique and Weisbord (2018) indicate that there are many approaches and systems that are emerging in the global leadership field for succession planning. SoftBank ultimately has no excuse for lack of preparation. Talent retention and talent development are areas that increase employee knowledge about company practices and engage employees long enough to develop needed skills (Tarique & Weisbord, 2018). SoftBank could place focus on these strategies to development individuals within the organization rather than looking for talent outside the company. In addition, SoftBank is not focusing on the global aspect of the organization. It appears they assume they can hire anyone who holds a leadership position to replace Son. Placing emphasis on global personnel is important because there are cultural aspects leaders must understand to run a global organization (Tarique & Weisbord, 2018). This concept is especially important in Japan because Japanese companies seemed to be plagued with succession issues in general (Kana, 2022). SoftBank is not the first Japanese company to be faced with this challenge. SoftBank could also focus on formal learning of the organization where candidates understand the organizational practices (Oddou & Mendenhall, 2018)). In addition, there must be job shadowing (Oddou & Mendenhall, 2018) of CEO Son so that when the transition does take place, the organization is not uprooted by an entirely new leadership style. The lack of planning and preparation alone could ruin the company. When a new leader does take over SoftBank, the organizational culture, strategies, business practices, etc. may change because the new leader may have an entirely new vision.
Kana, I. (2022). SoftBank’s succession turmoil raises risks. FT.com. https://www.proquest.com/trade-journals/softbank-s-succession-turmoil-raises-risks/docview/2706000929/se-2.
Oddou, G. R. & Mendenhall, M. E. (2018). Global leadership development. In Mendenhall, M. E., Osland, J. S., Bird, A., Oddou, G. R., Stevens, M. J., Maznevski, M. L., & Stahl, G. K. (Eds). Global Leadership: Research, Practice and Development (pp.229-269). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Tarique, I, & Weisbord, E. (2018). The emerging field of global talent management and its implications for global leadership development. In Mendenhall, M. E., Osland, J. S., Bird, A., Oddou, G. R., Stevens, M. J., Maznevski, M. L., & Stahl, G. K. (Eds). Global Leadership: Research, Practice and Development (pp.200-228). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.Post
This week’s readings, and articles I read for our group projects, provide packaged solutions for succession planning. These articles present perfect lists of action steps and leadership theories. Succession plans for global leaders include employees that have the ability to take on more responsibility, development, and international assignments (Jacobs, 2005). These employees broaden their skills and build their areas of expertise (Jacobs, 2005). However, even when plans are executed properly, succession plans may yet fail. For example, in 1999, Coca-Cola CEO Doug Ivester retired after being CEO for only two years. He was Coca-Cola’s succession-planned CEO after being mentored by the previous CEO for 10 years. Invester’s tenure was brief due to his lack of leadership skills, especially a lack of visionary-motivation and insensitivity to the socio-political environment (SIGMA Assessment Systems Inc., 2020). Looking back on the situation, apparently Coca-Cola was aware of the skills Ivester was lacking but promoted him to the position anyway (SIGMA Assessment Systems, 2020).
In contrast, when forming succession plans, it is important to remember that management and leadership are two different, yet overlapping, skill sets. Successful managers may not be successful leaders. SIGMA (2020) suggests grooming at least two candidates, to help ensure the best candidate is chosen, that having options is wise. Furthermore, during the grooming process, they suggest being real with acknowledging skills gaps—that it may be best to change the succession plan.
I appreciated reading this failed succession plan, as it brought a realism to the theories and “how-to’s” presented in research literature. It was also encouraging to read that Coca-Cola’s failed CEO succession plan in 1999 did not stop their successful CEO succession plan in 2017 (Coca-Cola, 2019).
Question to the class- do you know of other failed succession plans?
Coca-Cola (2019, December 9). The Coca-Cola company announces senior leadership succession plan. Coca-Cola. https://www.coca-colacompany.com/press-releases/the-coca-cola-company-announces-senior-leadership-succession-plan
Jacobs, D. (2005). In search of future leaders: Managing the global talent pipeline. Ivey Business Journal, 69(4), p.6.
SIGMA Assessment Systems, Inc. (2020). Coca-Cola: Succession planning and the Peter Principle. SIGMA Assessment Systems, Inc. https://www.sigmaassessmentsystems.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2020-08-27-SIGMASuccession_CaseStudy_Coca-Cola.pdf
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