Succession Plans and Other Matters

Forbes Magazine, which I have found less and less interesting in recent months (although I have continuing respect for Steve Forbes), has a feature article on Qualcomm Corporation in its February 29, 2016 edition. There are a number of things of interest in the article, one of which is the fact that Steve Mollenkopf (whom I know), the current CEO of Qualcomm, is only the third person to hold that position in the 31-year history of the company. If one is looking to focus on how successful transition, succession and consistency happens in companies, there is a compelling argument for Qualcomm to anointed as the Poster Child. Irwin Jacobs was the Qualcomm co-founder, his son Paul succeeded him, and Mollenkopf (a 21-year company veteran who served as President and COO) took over the helm 2 years ago. On the one hand, the carefully-planned succession hand-offs have contributed to the stability that the company is known for. On the other, however, having three people, who have been of consistent and like-minds, in charge for 31 years has presented some challenges when serious departures from the norm were needed, as is the case at present. Mollenkopf is racing to embrace new markets: automotive, drones and Internet-connected devices. To change direction dramatically is always a challenge – one that many large corporations have failed to meet. Think, for example: Polaroid, Circuit City, Lehman Brothers, Borders, and, more recently, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy. The challenge is on for Qualcomm – time will be the true arbiter of their success at making change and instituting change management.

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