Arribada of Turtles and Succession Planning

“If you don’t expect to retire, you tend not to nurture talent.”
Gopalakrishnan in “Bonsai Manager”

R.Gopalakrishnan is director at Tata Sons. In his book “Bonsai Manager” he compares failure of succession planning in corporate world with a phenomenon in animal world. His theory is if a CEO is not interested in retiring, he is unlikely to find/groom a successor. His longevity precludes succession planning, as succession planning has little relevance to him.

successful planning

He compares this with phenomenon in animal world called as Arribada of sea turtles. Mother turtles arrive on beach in thousands, called “arribada” (arrival in Spanish), lay hundreds of eggs and go back to sea, not bothering about fate of hatchlings. Their own longevity results in their indifference to fate of hatchlings. Once eggs are hatched, the hatchlings march towards sea, many are eaten up by predators, but due to their sheer number, some make it to adulthood.


If CEO has no interest in retiring, he is least bothered in nurturing talent. Corporate world has many examples of CEOs refusing to retire, by giving themselves extensions under some excuse. Most common excuse being- currently there is no one fit enough to succeed. Unfortunately the board of directors absolve themselves of their duty of finding a successor by approving extensions.

succession plan 2

Succession planning in such organisation does not work, because present incumbent has no plan of retiring, he looks forward to extensions or making comeback as consultant. Hence succession plan is biggest barrier to his future.

Ironically, same incumbent is also asked to select and coach /mentor his successor. In such cases coaching/mentoring gets reduced to performance appraisal of successor, resulting in successor getting demoralised and finally quitting the organisation.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s