The Show Must Go On

AUTHORS: Kate O'Shea & Matthew Harper

Sudden loss of senior leadership is a risk for every organisation.

From Harold Holt’s disappearance while swimming off the Mornington Peninsula in 1967 to Richard Cousins’ seaplane accident just this summer, the reality is key staff can abruptly leave any organisation at any tme for a multitude of reasons.

Some of these can be foreseen and planned for, some can happen in an instant. Some of these have minimal repercussions for the organisation beyond the change of staff, some can become existentially threatening.

The recent spate of highly-public executive-level staff losses due to allegations of improper conduct sharpens the focus on planning for such events.

In the case of the Melbourne City Council, ex-Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle’s recent resignation revealed an anomaly between the council’s legislated requirements to ensure a safe workplace for elected councillors and the powers that the local government act provides the general manager of a council to manage councillor behaviour.

According to an internal report, the council has been unable to respond effectively because of “major gaps in the reporting and management of sexual harassment allegations” as well as no clear guidance on dealing with harassment allegations from Victoria’s Local Government Act (1989).

Preparation, exercising and execution are the keys to an organisation surviving and thriving when key personnel are abruptly lost.

A good recent example of loss of key staff well prepared for, well exercised and well executed was the departure of Craig McLachlan from the national tour of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The theatre industry often employs an understudy setup – where key characters from productions are rehearsed by alternate actors – to ensure the show always goes on. In these instances, personnel loss is prepared for (understudy chosen) and exercised regularly (understudy rehearsals).

 Adam Rennie as Frank-N-Furter. Pic: Annette Dew

Adam Rennie as Frank-N-Furter.
Pic: Annette Dew

In this case, McLachlan’s understudy, Adam Rennie undertook a smooth transition. Preparation, exercising and execution ensured his early performances received strong reviews.

Tigertail helps organisations prepare for the loss of a key staff through developing and exercising transition plans. All of which ensures your organisation can execute when key staff are lost suddenly.