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How Twitter Can Help You Make the Case for Succession Planning

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Hally Pinaud
on June 23, 2015

Twitter, Showtime, and Deutsche Bank. What do they all have in common?

This week I’ve asked a few people that question. From most, I heard guesses about tenuous connections among the organizations. Only one person got it right: all three announced major CEO changes two weeks ago.

Jack Dorsey, former head of Twitter, is coming back as interim CEO. The co-CEOs at Deutsche Bank will be replaced by John Cryer, a member of the bank’s supervisory board. At Showtime, David Nevins will step in after years of success and grooming from the premium cable network.

Chances are, though, you only heard about Twitter. Why? Simply put, because succession planning is really important and when it doesn’t go well, it can make headlines.

While it’s true that other factors at Twitter were sharing the spotlight – namely, difficulty monetizing the popular service – the surprise of the changeover was a big deal to the media and shareholders. Surprise, and of course, a sounding alarm of poor planning. After all, Deutsche Bank was also a surprise to many, but Cryer was hired in 2013 to add to the bank’s CEO succession slate and the former co-CEOs will remain onboard to help him through the transition.

Departing Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has said he discussed his departure and succession planning with the board last year, but the search has yet to begin. Interim CEOs have a notoriously challenging mission. In addition, Dorsey still runs Square and has made it clear he won’t be stepping down. Leaving many to ask: Why go with someone in the interim? Is continuity at stake? And can one person really run two companies, especially when one so obviously requires a dedicated captain at the ship?

Many industry analysts and Twitter-watchers believe Dorsey is absolutely the man for the job. His return to Twitter has been optimistically compared to Howard Schultz’s return to Starbucks or Steve Jobs making his way back to the helm at Apple. Consequently, some suppose that this interim status won’t last. All the speculation leaves underperforming Twitter looking more volatile and vulnerable than ever. Even if Dorsey’s vision is comparable to that of Schultz and Jobs, neither of them came back with the limitations of an interim title or a divided day job.

Meanwhile, we’ve all forgotten (or never knew) that Deutsche Bank and Showtime also changed leadership last week too. And that’s exactly how they planned it.

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