Another area where compliance can play a key role is in succession planning. A.G. Lafley and Noel M. Tichy, writing in the Harvard Business Review, in an article entitled The Art and Science of Finding the Right CEO”, discussed the issue of succession planning during his tenure as the Chief Executive Officer of Procter & Gamble (P&G). Many of the concepts and issues that Lafley discusses within the context of succession planning in general are applicable to the concern of compliance within this area.

Lafley makes clear that succession planning is just as important as governance, enterprise risk and strategic oversight. In other words, it is just as important. Sadly, many companies fail to give it the attention it requires. Indeed, in a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, cited in the foreword, nearly one-half of the more than 1,000 directors gauged reported dissatisfaction with their companies’ succession plans. Imagine what that number would be if they took into account the compliance aspect of succession planning.

Borrowing from Lafley, I have adapted his box for an analysis of some of the characteristics that should be considered in succession planning from the compliance perspective.

Personal Judgment Team Judgment Organizational Judgment Stakeholder Judgment
People Personal judgments about overall compliance goals Judgments regarding your team members regarding compliance Judgments on organizational systems for assessing compliance with the organization Judgments about how to engage stakeholders regarding compliance
Strategy Personal judgments regarding compliance in your career Judgments about how your team evolves in its compliance approaches as new compliance challenges arise Judgments about how to engage and align all organization levels in compliance Judgments in leading stakeholders to execute compliance strategies
Crisis Personal judgments regarding compliance in times of crisis Judgments in how your team operates regarding compliance in times of crisis Judgments about how to work with your overall organization in compliance in times of crisis Judgments about dealing with key stakeholders regarding compliance in times of crisis

Lafley makes clear that succession planning does not begin at the time a CEO decides to retire. It should being at the time that a CEO is hired. This is to prevent a decision at the last minute or, worse yet, “to be left with effectively no decision.” As well as the process being started at the time of the hiring of a new CEO it must also fully engage the Board of Directors. Lafley provides several key points, all of which are applicable to the compliance component of succession.

Lafley defines the criteria that the evaluation process is an ongoing, not episodic process. In addition to a “broad and deep pipeline of qualified leaders” the candidates should be put through a variety of roles. In the compliance context, this would provide an opportunity to review the initiatives and responses in several different areas. In addition to running large and small business units, such candidates should oversee several different functions, as broadly as the Chief Financial Officer  to HR.

In many ways, evaluating a compliance criterion is as much an art as it is science. However, Lafley states that a specific list of “must-haves” is appropriate. It is not as simple as whether there was a violation or not. It is broader than that calculus. Paul McNulty’s three Maxims for evaluating a corporate compliance program are: (1) what did you do to prevent it; (2) what did you do to detect it; and (3) what did you do when you found out about it? Compliance for the CEO candidate is more than the third prong. How did you inculcate compliance into the business unit that you are managing? What controls did you put in place? And then what did you do when you found out about it? Indeed Department of Justice Compliance Counsel Hui Chen, recently remarked about the importance of ‘facetime’ by a Chief Compliance Officer with a President or Chief Executive.

Moreover the 2015, BNY Mellon’s FCPA enforcement action points towards the need to follow establish protocols, even in HR. If you have a process in HR for evaluation around succession planning, that process should be followed. If any exception is made, it is encumbent the exception be documented, justified, then reviewed and approved by an appropriate level of management.

Lafley defines this as “how the future might look”. You might explore a new geographic market with a candidate or a new product line, either of which might bring new compliance challenges. Being a part of a team to perform a risk assessment might indicate that new or different compliance safeguards need to be considered. Should monitoring, through continuous controls monitoring or other more sophisticated tools, be utilized as the compliance program evolves be considered?

Lafley points out that the choice of “a successor isn’t a done deal until the votes are cast and the announcement is made.” He advocates continuing to provide challenging projects, which would include those in the compliance arena, which can continue to provide feedback and guidance from the compliance perspective. As one division President told me “You are always being evaluated.” And so it should be. The selection of a new CEO is a substantial investment by a large company. Having the right person in the position from the compliance perspective is an important element in an overall evaluation. Remember – it all starts with the “Tone from the Top”.

Every time I perform a risk assessment and speak the company’s HR lead, they immediately understand the role than can play in moving forward a company’s compliance program. Even if the HR role is limited in the hiring process, they can ask potential candidates their views to determine underlying business ethics. HR can also begin the compliance inculcation process, even pre-hiring, by talking about the company’s values in the interview process. This sets an expectation that can be built upon if a candidate is selected and in every HR touch point going forward, including looking at employees in the succession planning process.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Succession planning is just as important as governance, enterprise risk and strategic oversight
  2. Do not begin your succession planning when a senior manager announces their retirement.
  3. You are always being evaluated (or you should be).


This month’s series is sponsored by Advanced Compliance Solutions and its new service offering the “Compliance Alliance” which is a three-step program that will provide you and your team a background into compliance and the FCPA so you can consider how your product or service fits into the needs of a compliance officer. It includes a FCPA and compliance boot camp, sponsorship of a one-month podcast series, and in-person training. Each section builds on the other and provides your customer service and sales teams with the knowledge they need to have intelligent conversations with compliance officers and decision makers. When the program is complete, your teams will be armed with the knowledge they need to sell and service every new client. Interested parties should contact Tom Fox.