CEO succession is a big deal. The best-run companies and boards invest a lot of time and energy to think it through in advance, and do everything they can to smooth the new CEO’s onboarding into the role. We’re in the midst of three very different CEO successions at Walmart, Kroger and Microsoft. The lesson to be learned here is clear: one size does not fit all when it comes to succession.
Kroger is a classic example of an organization with less need for change right now, but ready to change. In cases such as this, promoting from within makes a lot of sense. Giving the new CEO a long time to ramp up seems like exactly the right approach.
Compare this to Walmart – its same-store sales are declining and they need to make some changes… quickly. Promoting from within suggests that they think at least some in the organization are ready to lead this change. Thus, their new CEO will need to converge into the new role quickly and start evolving things.
Microsoft is facing a completely different situation, which worsens every day it waits to name a new CEO. Uncertainty is stressful. The longer it takes to start the changes, the greater the urgency of the changes will be. If Microsoft waits any longer, it will get to the point where its new CEO is going to have to shock the system.