How to Succeed as a CEO

IT succession planning can be a springboard for CIOs who want to move up.

UPS's succession plan helped propel Dave Barnes to the CIO spot, but succession planning programs shouldn't stop there. At Schneider National, the process resulted in the CIO becoming CEO.

Christopher Lofgren served as CIO of Schneider, a privately held trucking and logistics company, from 1996 to 2000, reporting to then-CEO and company founder Don Schneider. At that time, the company succession plan was a loosely organized effort run by the CEO and the board of directors, and was focused on the half-dozen members of the senior leadership team. "Because I was reporting to Don, the board was probably looking at me, but it was never said outright," Lofgren recalls. "But if you can't figure that out, you probably don't deserve to be considered for CEO."

To expand his skill set, Lofgren was given more responsibility over time, such as the financial oversight for logistics. He moved up to the newly created position of COO in 2000 and became CEO in 2002.

Soon after being named CEO, Lofgren set out to broaden the company's succession planning program. He enlisted Tim Fliss, executive vice president for human resources, to increase the number of people included in the program, and to formalize the company's leadership and management training efforts. Fliss reviewed about 40 companies to benchmark Schneider's program against theirs; he also consulted with Stephen Drotter, author of The Leadership Pipeline. Fliss adapted some of Drotter's philosophy, such as setting up multiple levels of leadership development at Schneider. Today, about 65 employees are involved in the most detailed succession planning program; hundreds of employees are involved in a talent review program.

Schneider now has "a development approach that allows you to have possibilities for succession," Lofgren says. One such person is Steve Matheys, Lofgren's successor as CIO, who recently became executive vice president for sales and marketing. "It's an opportunity to broaden his experience," Lofgren says. "We have people ready to step up."

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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