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Preface to the Fourth Edition
The world moves faster than ever. Since the third edition of this book, many changes
have occurred to shape succession planning and management as well as the related
field of talent management. Just consider the changes:
In the World
▪ The Recession of 2007 and Beyond: As this edition goes to press, unemployment
in the United States has exceeded 9 percent, and the United Nations projects
that the global unemployment rate could climb higher than 6.1 percent. As a
result, some business leaders question whether the time and money devoted
to succession planning and talent management are worth it when layoffs are
▪ The Lingering Aftereffects and Legacy of 9/11: When the World Trade Center
collapsed, 172 corporate vice presidents lost their lives. That tragic event reinforced
the message, earlier foreshadowed by the tragic loss of life in Oklahoma
City, Oklahoma, that life is fragile and that talent at all levels is increasingly at
risk in a world where disaster can strike unexpectedly. In a move that would
have been unthinkable ten years ago, some organizations are examining their
bench strength in locations other than their headquarters in New York City,
Washington, or other cities that might be prone to attack if terrorists should
wipe out a whole city through the use of a dirty nuclear weapon or other
chemical or biological agent. Could the organization pick up the pieces and
continue functioning without headquarters? That awful, but necessary, question
is on the minds of some corporate and government leaders today. (In
fact, one client of mine has set a goal of making a European capital the alternative
corporate headquarters, with a view toward having headquarters completely
reestablished in Europe within 24 hours of the total loss of the New
York City headquarters, if disaster should strike.)
▪ The Aftereffects of Many Corporate Scandals: Ethics, morality, and values have
never been more prominent than they are today. The Bernard Madoff scandal
followed on the heels of earlier scandals affecting numerous Wall Street firms
and, years before that, Enron, Global Crossing, and WorldCom. Many business
leaders have recognized that ethics, morality, and values do matter. Corporate
boards have gotten more involved in succession planning and
management owing in part to the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and
to the recognition that many senior corporate leaders are at or beyond the
traditional retirement age. And corporate leaders, thinking about succession,
realize that future leaders must model the behaviors they want others to exhibit
and must avoid practices that give even the mere appearance of impropriety.
And yet some CEOs receive large performance bonuses even when they
lead their firms into bankruptcy.
▪ Growing Recognition of the Aging Workforce: Everyone is still talking about the
demographic changes sweeping the working world in the United States and in
the other G8 nations. Some organizations have already felt the effects of talent
loss resulting from retirements of experienced workers.
▪ Growing Awareness That Succession Issues Amount to More Than Finding Replacements:
When experienced people leave organizations, they take with them
not only the capacity to do the work but also the accumulated wisdom they
have acquired. That happens at all levels and in all functional areas. Succession
involves more than merely planning for replacements at the top. It also involves
thinking through what to do when the most experienced people at all
levels depart—and take valuable institutional memory with them.
Increasing Globalization of Talent: Workers in the West are heading to the Far
East, where more opportunities exist even in the midst of financial crises.
Talent is becoming more willing to travel where pay and benefits, as well as
tax rates, are more favorable.
▪ Growing Interest in Tapping Retirees: Though experts may argue over whether
a talent shortage has emerged or will emerge, business leaders are increasingly
turning to their more experienced workers or seeking to find them.