How You Should Avoid Being Another Kodak

Said Jack Welch: “We’ve had managers at GE who couldn’t change, who kept telling us to leave them alone. They wanted to sit back, to keep things the way they were. And that’s just what they did—until they and most of their staffs had to go.”

I want to ask leading CEOs the question they should be asking themselves. What is going to destroy your business, and are you taking steps to do it yourself before others do it to you? How do you avoid being another Kodak, which stayed fat and happy in Rochester, N.Y., while digital developments were digging the film company’s grave in Silicon Valley? One of my favorite corporate leaders ran a successful venture-capital arm that saved his company by buying into new technology he could bring into the company mainstream. He was fond of saying, “Dream your worst nightmare, and invest in it.” If nightmares are keeping you up at night, that might be telling you to get used to the idea of converting them into daydreams.

Once we’ve dealt with strategic change, I want to know from Mr. or Ms. CEO about his or her own exit. I don’t mean that to be grim, just realistic. Legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs had several years to anticipate his (sad) demise. He groomed a successor who could take over while he was still there and maintain his legacy, yet begin to depart from it in subtle ways. For example, Tim Cook is less flamboyant, more willing to invest in improvement while waiting for blockbusters, more culture-oriented, and cares about team skills.

So my second question to leading CEOs is: Do you have a short list of successors? Will you let go rather than hang on too long? And how are you going to be sure that they will be up to the challenges of what are certain to be surprises following your departure?

Adapted from  WSJ.


Jim Woods is president of The Jim Woods Group. A management consulting firm. Go here to see his work He advises and speaks to organizations large and small on how to increase top line growth in times of uncertainty and complexity. Some of his speaking and consulting clients include: U.S. Army, MITRE Corporation, Pitney Bowes, Whirlpool, and 3M. See more at his website

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Posted in Authentic Leadership

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