Executive Suite

Executive Suite

Study Guide 16: Corporate Succession

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Guide opening:

You have built your business, seen it through its growing pains, established it as a leader in its sector. Unfortunately, you have been so busy building the company you haven’t given much thought to who is going to run it after you’re gone. The stockholders are well aware of your importance to the firm, but they are worried: What if you get hit by a truck or, as is the case with Avery Bullard in Executive Suite, drop dead on the sidewalk from a heart attack at age 53? The company that was built as a monument to your success now faces chaos. The board’s directors are at each other’s throats; your key managers are trying to bail out; and your stockholders are dumping your stock as fast as they can. This was not the legacy you wanted to leave and it’s certainly not the legacy your peers, subordinates and shareholders wanted to inherit.

This Study Guide looks closely at Executive Suite, the star-studded 1954 film that was nominated for four Academy Awards. The movie centers on a succession crisis and the jockeying that takes place as vice-presidents battle to succeed their struck-dead-in-his-prime boss. The film’s lessons deal with politics, ethics, leadership styles, corporate vision and team building.

Summary of the commentary:

The commentary focuses on the differences between Shaw’s view of corporate management and Walling’s. Shaw’s case is fleshed out and given a fairer shake than it gets in the movie. Walling’s, conversely, is critiqued and ultimately made stronger. Issues of corporate succession are examined in detail. The commentary also discusses the importance of teaming building and how to get senior executives out of their functional ghettos. It also offers tips on how to nurture your lieutenants rather than pitting them against one another. Finally, the Guide discusses how how important it is to pay attention to the factory floor and their opinions of the products being produced.

The commentary is supplemented by Breakout Boxes dealing with these topics:

  • The Caswell Subplot: How Shortselling Works and Why It Gets Bad Press
  • Top 7 Lessons in Team Management and Succession
  • Best Business Movie of All Time