(December 2010) Steven Specker joins Southern Company board; Chesapeake Utilities names Michael McMasters CEO; Ethics inquiry leads to dismissals and new president at Duke Indiana; plus...
How to ease the coming upheaval in the nuclear power industry.
the specifications should take into account the existing culture, degree of cultural change required, barriers to success, and specific competencies needed to overcome them.
In the assessment stage, presenting candidates with real-world challenges can distinguish the top talent from the rest of the field. All candidates should of course be thoroughly referenced, vetted through interviews with associates, and evaluated for the competencies established in the job specifications. But because the company is seeking talent from unusual sources, it’s imperative to engage candidates in intensive conversations about the specific challenges the company faces, not simply about abstract issues or hypothetical cases.
For example, the company might be planning to apply for two new operating licenses while upgrading three existing plants and trying to site two newly approved plants against heavy community opposition—all in the context of specific market objectives, a unique company culture, and an environment of price volatility for raw materials in all energy sectors. How would candidates apply their experiences against these specific challenges and strategic objectives? Do they bring a valuable perspective that the company might have missed? How do they see the company’s culture affecting their approach to these challenges? Do they genuinely engage the issues and suggest creative, practical answers, or do they retreat into business platitudes to avoid giving what might be perceived as the wrong answer? Do they feign expertise they don’t have, or do they forthrightly identify areas where they will need help and say how they will acquire it?
Because the requirements of nuclear operation are so demanding, the scale so enormous, and the regulatory burden, capital investment, and attendant risks so great, this assessment must be as company- and culture-specific as the position specifications are.
Finally, in the implementation stage, the new leader’s credibility is established. This on-boarding and taking-charge period—the first 90 to 180 days of the new leader’s tenure—can be critical in determining whether the leader and the culture collide or cooperate. From the beginning, the new leader should have a mentor—someone wise in the ways of the company, attuned to the future strategy, and savvy about the location of the cultural landmines. The mentor should be a widely respected executive with a track record of achievement, a strong commitment to the mentoring role, and the ability to establish a candid, trusting relationship to help the leader navigate the intricacies of the organization. The new leader may also want to seek a sounding board outside the company—someone who has gone through a similar transition in a company and industry of comparable complexity, scale, and culture.
This process will be most successful if it occurs within a broader context of the alignment of strategy, organization, and leadership. The new leader develops a game plan with the leadership team for addressing the company’s strategic and organizational priorities, for clarifying strategy, and aligning the organization to deliver it. In addition to solid analysis and creative thinking, this alignment requires extensive constituency-building. That means engaging people at every level of the organization—encouraging them to help create and validate priorities, demonstrating to them that the organization