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by Vault Consulting Editors | January 25, 2010


Price of Mine That Bird in a mink Snuggie watching premium NFL? $4.8 million. Price NBC will pay for screwing Conan? Some $45 million. Future losses to NBC's reputation? For now, priceless, but undoubtedly there will be a price to pay.


The to some management consultants to gauge their reactions to the situation. NBC made two mistakes in reshuffling its late-night lineup, they said: It made a long-term promotion promise to Conan in order to retain him, and it named a successor too far in advance. For the former argument, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale's School of Management notes that organizations stand to benefit when top talent leaves to get jobs elsewhere, gaining a reputation as "a breeding ground for stars" and, ultimately, more talent in the future. And as for the long timeline in naming a successor to The Tonight Show, organizational psychologist Ben Dattner says, "There's a Goldilocks time frame for a succession: If it's too short, people don't have enough time to get acclimated. If it's too long, the world can change." The consultants point to examples of corporations that exhibited these important management lessons: CEOs leaving GE to pursue top jobs at other companies, and Xerox's recent CEO transition.

NBC defends its decisions, claiming "a responsibility to protect our franchises." And truthfully, whether or not NBC's situation is analogous to the consultants' examples is a moot point at this juncture. What is certain is that it would have behooved the organization to heed some solid management advice before turning their prime time lineup into a prime time disaster.


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