A Narrative Study of the Nonprofit Board's Role in CEO Succession Planning

A Narrative Study of the Nonprofit Board's Role in CEO Succession Planning

Author: 
Sherry S. Jennings
Program of study: 
Ph.D./IO Psych
Abstract: 
Board processes for planning the eventual turnover of the chief executive officer (CEO) are investigated in a narrative study. With an impending crisis in nonprofit CEO turnover, boards of directors are ill prepared for CEO succession. Despite the importance of the governing board’s role in succession planning for the CEO, no rich, deep studies exist on nonprofit boards’ succession planning processes. The purpose of conducting this study was to understand key factors that contribute to how boards of directors develop and implement plans for the process of selection. Developing and implementing the succession planning process for replacing a CEO can be time consuming and complicated for a board of directors. Organizational success depends on the CEO and the board of directors is responsible for hiring the CEO and planning for CEO succession. A qualitative narrative study explored individual directors’ perceptions of the succession planning processes in four nonprofit organizations. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews with individual nonprofit board members. The depth of the study provides a catalyst for important conversation and action plans for nonprofit boards of directors to address the succession planning process for an organization’s CEO.
Dedication: 
Words are inadequate to thank the incredibly brilliant and supportive people who inspired this journey, who lifted my spirits when the going was tough, and who guided me throughout. My inspiration came from dozens of exceptionally gifted consultants who work tirelessly to make the world better through responsible and accountable governance. Foremost among them is Robert Ballantyne. Robert and I collaborate and commiserate over the state of governance and he inspires me to be better. Another major influence was Caroline Oliver. Caroline’s recent passing was a blow to all of us who knew her, but she leaves an unparalleled legacy in the world of corporate and nonprofit governance. As the founder of the Xylem Group, of which Robert and I are a part, Caroline’s vision for our group efforts brought me closer to my dear friends and colleagues Linda Stier and John Bruce. Our regular Monday morning Fuze meetings kept me going. In addition to the Xylem Group’s morale lifting on Mondays, several of the people I met along the way through the University of Phoenix kept me motivated and honest. Lucretia King and Asunta Ross were in my BS in Human Services Management cohort. They were, and remain to this day, the best team members with whom I’ve worked. During residency, Octavia Askew, Dr. Jeff Beisler, my sister-in-soul Jetonga Keel, and I became quite close. We bonded over the angst of this journey and the rewards that included some memorable meals and fun after hours. Dr. Kelley Conrad is an advisor, a co-author, and someone who supported me throughout. I’m very grateful the University of Phoenix connected me with all of these fine people. v A year ago, I found out that I have a full sister who was looking for me. My love to my newly-found sister Kathryn whose pride and interest in this work kicked me in the pants over the past year. My sister informed me the matriarchs in our family were quite well educated for their time. Here’s to nature and the influence on my pursuit of higher education. With all my heart, I love, admire, and respect my 99-year-old mom who shows me every day what resilience, courage, and devotion to family look like. Here’s to nurture, too. I acknowledge the commitment and willingness of my dissertation committee members, Dr. Scott Burrus and Dr. Michael Raphael. Both stepped in when I needed them most. But I save the best for last, because the heart and soul of my dissertation journey is the steady guidance, constant support, and hard work of my dissertation Chair Heather Allen. Dr. Allen and I bonded over our preference for qualitative research methodology, the importance of action research, and love of honeybees. All of these things have something in common: the deep, richness of the experiences. Dr. Allen knows what I mean.
Acknowledgements: 
January 15, 2018 is the day I finished writing this dissertation and began writing acknowledgements and the dedication. It is remarkable that this day is the day my husband and I celebrate meeting each other 25 years ago. Without my husband Jeffrey L. Ott’s support, both psychological and financial, my dissertation would not have been possible. Jeff’s love and encouragement nourished my soul through this journey. His steadfast and resolute belief that I could complete the journey are what got me to this day. So I’m dedicating this work to you, my love, my Jeff. Your true and abiding love sustains me. I loved you the moment we met and my love grows deeper with each year. Thank you for the greatest gift of all – being able to spend my life with you.