Focus Succession Planning on Business Value

Toyota Motor America CIO Barbra Cooper wants to develop leaders who can deliver value for the next 20 years

What should CIOs be doing to improve succession planning?

There is a big difference between submitting names to the HR succession plan and practicing deliberate end-to-end leadership development. When CIOs create a development plan for their high-potentials and give it their personal attention, they are more likely to end up with highly qualified talent that the executive office views as ready and confident enough to succeed them.

But it’s a lot harder than people realize to have this mind-set and actually devote as much as 30 percent of your time, as I do, to succession planning and development. We have to start early and think way ahead. It takes three to five years from the time you start to impose the exposure, training and techniques before you begin to get returns. And if you are not thinking about the competitive business demands that will dominate in the next 20 years, you can’t prepare people for them.

For example, sustainability and government policy compliance will be much more complex, challenging and global in scope over the coming decades. Managing social networking, mass collaboration, and the blurring of the line between consumer and business computing is already tough and will only get harder. IT leaders will need to steer business or government entities through these issues while understanding the complexities they inherited from the decisions of the past—those we are making today and have made throughout the era of distributed computing.

These new, externally focused demands will bring an end to the traditional model of successful CIOs, which was primarily about service provisioning and being aligned. If we don’t develop people with these future challenges in mind, we will have another generation of IT leaders who can’t understand why being a good service provider isn’t enough. We must build awareness and an orientation around these needs. Initiatives such as the Council’s Journey to the Future-State CIO and Pathways development programs are helping with this.

It’s not instinctive to spend personal or conscious effort to find and groom people we really believe can replace us. You have to think about your mortality, and you are not really rewarded by the business. But for me, 10 years from now, I hope the IT leaders here will say, “You know, I remember when Barbra told us that this was coming.” That’s the legacy that I want to leave.

Barbra Cooper is VP & North America CIO at Toyota Motor America and a member of the CIO Executive Council.

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This story, "Focus Succession Planning on Business Value" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

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