Executive Transition Management: Prepare, Pivot, Thrive!

Executive transition management is a structured consultancy service for nonprofits managing changes in their executive leadership. Foundations played a major role in developing the model and have subsidized the growth of the field by making grants that enable nonprofits to hire transition consultants, supporting training for nonprofit consultants in the model, and forming funders’ collaboratives to develop local and regional transition management services... Its motto, “prepare, pivot, thrive,” sums up its view of leadership transition as a “pivotal moment, enabling an organization to change direction, maintain momentum, and strengthen its capacity.”

Executive transition management services support organizations through a three-stage process:

  1. Stage One: Planning for leadership transition. At this stage, the focus is on helping the current CEO decide how to leave; strengthening the board’s capacity to manage the transition; and clarifying the organization’s strategic direction by conducting an assessment of where the organization has been, where it is headed, and the leadership required to get it there.

  2. Stage Two: Search and selection. Here, the focus is on recruitment, the search, and leader selection, as well as continued strengthening of particular areas of the organization’s infrastructure to smooth the way for the new executive.

  3. Stage Three: Post-hire launch and support. The focus from this point is on the “successful launch of the new executive and ongoing capacity building.” This stage often involves the creation of a “social contract” between the new CEO and the board, spelling out roles, priorities, and procedures for the next 12 to 18 months.

  4. A key element of the model is the availability of an interim executive director. An interim CEO is particularly helpful when an organization has to tackle serious problems in areas such as finance, fundraising, and personnel in order to attract a new CEO. The interim CEO can also help staff manage the feelings — from sadness to anger to despair — that can pervade an organization when its CEO departs. In leadership succession circles, there’s a difference between executive transition services and succession planning. Executive transition services are helpful when a CEO plans to leave at a specific time. Succession planning comes in two forms, neither tied to a particular date: emergency succession planning, which helps an organization figure out how to function when a CEO leaves in an emergency; and longer-range succession planning, designed to help an organization strengthen and broaden its leadership capability in preparation for a future transition.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Executive Transitions.

Comments