Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Management and Policy

First Advisor

Dr. Carol D. Hansen - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Barbara A. Reilly - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Dr. Kimberly C. Magee - Committee Member

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Verna J. Willis - Committee Member


Succession planning is perhaps one of the hottest topics today as a result of ethical issues, compensation, development and implementation. Global organizations faced with fast-paced change can no longer afford long, lengthy internal development of an heir apparent. However, those organizations who seek faster, external executive hires have found it no panacea as organizational culture often trumps talent and industry experience. Recent research points to those who do internal succession well, with little disruption and ready change depend on their ability to execute plans (Charan & Colvin, 1999, 2001). A qualitative study was conducted with 30 participants of executive and mid-level managers from a large, Fortune 500 company to investigate the influence of organizational culture on the succession planning process. The results indicate that the founder has tremendous influence on organizational processes (i.e., succession planning) via the culture which he or she created early on. According to Schein (1992), succession planning processes serve as secondary embedding mechanisms to perpetuate existing cultural values; as a result they are difficult to change. The vast majority of research to date has utilized quantitative, positivistic methods in the study of succession planning resulting in a multiplicity of variables furthering functionalist pursuits of predictability and generalizability rather than furthering our understanding of the process itself, situated in its natural environment. This study contributes significantly to current research in that it reveals organizational values, purpose, roles, decision-making criteria, selection, development and promotion of potential heir-apparents and how these variables play out in the implementation of a succession plan. Furthermore, previous research suggests that the CEO has primary control over the succession planning process and its results. Although their role is indeed important, this study suggests that it is the trust, identification and commitment of an organization’s members (i.e., employees) and the cultural alignment of organizational processes which ensure that the execution of the succession plan results in a “successful” successor. Human Resource Development is therefore poised to make a bigger impact than ever before as a strategic partner to executive levels of organizations today. Exemplary development and implementation initiatives will need to be managed throughout the ranks.