A Good Succession Plan Is More Than Crossing Your Fingers


August 6, 2011

We’ve all heard  that organizations need to have a strong succession plan.  And it’s true.  Without one, the uncertainty of success when you lose a leader is daunting.

I was reading an article today about the MDA (Muscular Distrophy Association) Labor Day Telethon.  For the last forty-five years, Jerry Lewis has been the host.  In fact, most people call it the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.  It’s a household ritual for many viewers each year and it provides the opportunity to help find a cure and other support for people suffering from muscular distrophy.  Jerry is the figure-head and one of the driving forces in the charity’s success.  But, now he needs to step down due to his age and health issues.

As a viewer each year,  I have watched as Jerry’s health deteriorated in the last several years.  I have also noticed that there was no clear heir apparent.  This is quite curious from a succession planning standpoint since it is such a highly visible event.  Add to this the fact that they have named Nigel Lythgoe, Nancy O’Dell, Allison Sweeney and Jan Carl as the replacement hosts.  Wow! Four lesser known, C or D list “celebrities” to fill Jerry’s shoes.  I don’t know about you but I have little faith that they can pull it off as effectively as Jerry has. Last year alone, the telethon raised $58,919,838.

I’ll be crossing my fingers they do well this year but let’s face it, that is not a good succession planning strategy.  If you’d like to help out “Jerry’s Kids”, please click here to donate.


  • When I heard he was not going to be on the telethon I thought…”They need Seacrest” But seriously, this is an excellent point you bring up. Why haven’t they groomed the next celebrity for this position. Someone to bring passion, credibility and excitement. I guess time slipped away from them.

  • thanks for the post- my bff’s sister passed from this horrible disease, and Jerry is a hero- it is so unfortunate that it does not appear that a successor hero is in line (certainly there was time to think about this?)

  • It is HIGHLY surprising that NOBODY has been tapped to take Jerry’s place. While he was more popular in Europe, Jerry clearly was the lead money maker in Muscular Distrophy (can’t spell the bloody word!!!!) and the organisation NEVER thought they needed to groom a replacement. Jerry Lewis is FREAKIN’ ancient and this replacement needed to be thought about…

    G’d speed Jerry Lewis!!! Great man and great passion!!!!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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