Intel has long been the company that was seen as “insular” and as always promoting people up through the ranks, rather than hiring from without.
Intel’s last four CEOs averaged 26 years with the company before being promoted to the top job. I’ve written about Intel extensively, both in earlier posts and in the book, ALL THE MOVING PARTS: ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE MANAGEMENT. Andy Grove was a particular favorite, during his time as CEO of Intel – a highly-talented manager who is credited with saving Intel at a critical moment in its history.
With the removal of Brian Krzanich as CEO several months ago, Bob Swan, the CFO who joined the company in 2016, was appointed as acting CEO. That, in itself, is somewhat unusual for the firm but even more so is the fact that the Intel board of directors have recently named Swan as permanent Chief Executive. The times they are a-changing. Intel has recently been reporting record financial results, but the firm is not currently seen as the leader in the chip industry that it once was (Gallagher, WSJ). During the series of recent upsets at the top leadership level, Intel has managed to lose its lead in chip-manufacturing to Taiwan’s Semiconductor Manufacturing that have been able to ship more advanced chips more quickly. I mentioned in a previous post that Intel, under Krzanich’s leadership, had been slow in identifying plans for speeding up their manufacturing of the chip upgrades, and that that was not expected to occur for some months to come. The need for chip upgrades, therefore, is one of the many things that face Swan as he tackles the firm’s long-term strategic concerns. It’s possible that Swan’s tenure at Intel will be akin to Grove’s – Andy Grove was in the CEO’s position when there was a need to take drastic steps in new directions at the firm. And he did it with great dispatch and firm resolve. Swan will likely benefit from the fact that he won’t have to clear out the upper ranks to make room for the executives he would like to install there – a result of the fact of recent company veterans retiring. Currently, there are only 3 executive vice presidents in place, out of the customary 10 at the company. Here’s to Bob Swan’s success as Intel’s new CEO during turbulent times.