Chief executive succession planning: marks out of 10

In terms of marks out of 10 for succession planning Boeing gets a solid 7, Embraer warrants a glossy 10, while Airbus only merits a paltry 2.

It is quite remarkable that all three of the world’s major aerospace manufacturers have undergone radical transformations at the top of their management trees all within a couple of months of each other. There is a stark difference between each however.

At July’s Farnborough Airshow Alan Mulally must have known that his annual press briefing was to be his last. Soon the roar of the turbofan would be replaced in his world by the hum of the automobile engine, as Boeing’s commercial airplanes supremo mulled a transfer to the troubled Ford Motor Company.

Mulally’s move was hardly a surprise after he was overlooked by Boeing’s board to lead the entire corporation in favour of 3M and GE executive James McNerney a year ago. Luckily for Boeing a ready-made replacement was waiting in the wings in the shape of Scott Carson, its head of sales. The affable Carson was brought in to revive Boeing’s flagging sales efforts in late 2005. The only potential blot on his copy book is that he ran Connexion, which Boeing is now axing, although to his credit he did get it up and running and left well before the in-flight communications service came under scrutiny.

Mulally leaves Boeing with a coherent product strategy, with the 777 coming into its own and the 787 selling like hot cakes. Its production costs also appear to be well under control. Carson takes over a solid looking platform from which he can weave his sales magic.

In succession terms, Carson has most likely been lined up for months. In fact the press release has probably been sitting on a desktop just ready to go.

Boeing’s peaceful transition jars with the woes at Airbus in the weeks running up to Farnborough. Flightglobal covered the departure of Noel Forgeard and arrival of Christian Streiff in great detail. Suffice to say, succession planning did not play a great role in the affair. The only reason Airbus gets a score of 2 out of 10 is that it responded quickly to bring Streiff in.

The most impressive succession is at Brazil‘s Embraer. The smooth handover of Mauricio Botelho to Frederico Curado is virtually by the book.

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