JCP hires an Apple innovator (part 2)

A followup comment based on the news that the new JCP CEO was not originally given store responsibility…and some subsequent backtracking by the JCP board:

News flash (from today’s Wall Street Journal): The JCP board has now decided that Ron Johnson will have full responsibility as of next February 1st. Functional areas like stores will only report to Mike Ullman for a three-month window, starting when Mr. Johnson assumes the CEO title on November 1st. Apparently the board met over the weekend and pushed this timetable, since many board members were caught by surprise when they learned about the original transition plan.

Some lessons learned here:

1. If your company has “activist” board members who push the hiring of a new CEO, don’t leave them in the dark about a transition plan;
2. If you are hiring a new CEO, don’t muddy the waters with unclear lines of authority;
3. If you are hiring a CEO in order to reinvent the store experience (among other things), give him or her the responsibility needed to be a change agent from day one.

Penney is left with a short-term black eye in terms of corporate governance, and is also lowering expectations about when Mr. Johnson’s impact on the company will start to happen. (Current timetable: Fall 2012.) JCP didn’t need to let this happen, and to lose a lot of the positive momentum gained last week with the original hiring announcement.



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