I wrote an article yesterday on succession planning which discussed the steps a business could take to ensure they develop talent and fill critical roles in the organisation. You can read more here .
It's coincided with the news that Manchester United have dismissed their manager, David Moyes. Clearly, the club did not have a succession plan in place to replace Sir Alex Ferguson which is incredible when you consider the fact his retirement was on the cards for a few years.
What could Man Utd have done differently?
Based on reports, it seems Moyes was Ferguson's choice. If that was the case, and given Moyes' track record and the fact he has not won a major trophy or managed in the Champions League, if he was the chosen one then it would have made more sense to perhaps get him part of the management team when Sir Alex was there and get him working and learning from him.
This would have allowed Moyes to gain some valuable experience, observing Sir Alex at first hand and slowly make the transition. Would he have agreed to this? Who knows, but the opportunity to manage Man Utd after assisting for a season would certainly have made more sense.
The club also made a huge mistake allowing Moyes to remove Sir Alex's entire management and coaching team and bringing in his own people. Whilst it is common for managers in any business to bring in their own people, how often does this happen in one swoop? Think of your own business, for example, if you work in retail, would you appoint a new Store Manager and allow him or her to replace your Assistant Manager, Customer Service Manager, Duty Managers and Supervisors and replace with external people who don't know the culture of your business or your people? Highly unlikely unless your business was performing badly, but as Man Utd were already league champions this kind of drastic action was not required.
In your business, you would appoint the Store Manager and let him or her work with your existing people and let them identify strengths, areas for development and slowly build on this. Eventually, they might start to bring in some of their own people but this would be a gradual process, ensuring the people who are already there perform to the best of their ability,
The other option would have been to promote from within. Interestingly, Ryan Giggs has been appointed an interim manager, and he knows the club inside out having played at the top level for more than 20 years. Again, if the club felt he had the potential to manage, and given they knew he was approaching the end of his playing career and Sir Alex would be retiring, could they have acted sooner and put a succession plan in place 2 or 3 years ago to allow him to make the transition? People might say this is all very well with hindsight, but this is how businesses have to operate. The fact Man Utd didn't have a plan has affected results on the pitch and off the pitch. Failure to qualify for the Champions League is a financial disaster for the club and interestingly the decision to dismiss Moyes has seen the share price rise to its highest level since he was appointed. This shows the impact poor planning can have on a business.
I guess we can all learn lessons from the Man Utd management problems. Man Utd will also need to learn quickly - if they don't get the next appointment right then they could spend a number of years in the wilderness, where a lack of success will result in loss of revenue, higher debts and cut backs on the playing squad. Make sure your business is not exposed if a key person decides to move on.