Many utilize a technique called succession planning.
It is not a science. It is merely a logical, common-sense approach to successful business.
Such planning provides the tools, and a designated path, for leadership development. Subsequently, when a reigning leader retires or leaves the company, a younger — but properly trained — successor is prepared to take the helm.
This practice is sound for any type of business regardless of size. Whether an operation is global and boasting tens of thousands of workers or is smaller and limited to one community, preparing solid leaders for the future and creating established chains of command for the present are critical.
Cleveland Utilities, a widely respected public utility whose service territory keeps growing yet whose personnel numbers have actually dropped over the past two years, has taken a responsible — and commendable — step with the naming of Chief Financial Officer Ken Webb as assistant general manager.
For those unfamiliar with last week’s actions by the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities, it is important to understand Webb will now fulfill a dual role. He retains his critical position as CFO in charge of CU’s fiscal management, but he adds a new job as assistant to General Manager Tom Wheeler.
The decision to make this personnel move is a wise one on several fronts.
First, as a 25-year Cleveland Utilities employee who has held various roles of responsibility within the Accounting Division, Webb is well-versed in the inner workings of the company which serves some 30,000 customers.
Second, 41-year utility veteran Wheeler acknowledged last week he won’t be working forever and for this reason he wanted to create the assistant general manager position and to fill it with Webb. This action will allow the CFO to become even more familiar with the GM duties and the day-to-day task associated with this high office.
Three, creating the assistant general manager position — and filling it from within — better establishes an internal chain of command following some recent restructuring. When Wheeler is away from the office, Webb will become the “go-to” voice for Cleveland Utilities as the public company’s No. 2 manager.
Four, establishing the assistant general manager post enhances internal and external lines of communication, not just for CU employees but also for area residents, local government leaders and other utility companies such as Volunteer Energy Cooperative and TVA who work with Cleveland Utilities on a regular basis.
Five, Webb is the right man for the job. His understanding of finance, his knowledge of the utility industry and the high level of respect for which he is held by peers, co-workers, the utility board and the Cleveland City Council lend him an air of leadership that will work toward the collective good of the organization and surrounding community.
We applaud the utility board for creating the assistant GM position.
We commend Wheeler for selecting Webb to the post.
But perhaps most importantly, we admire the foresight necessary for looking into the future of a community whose growth is tied directly to the resourcefulness of its public utility.