Planning for org change is vital

Lee's Summit JournalJuly 11, 2014 

We all look at transitions in different ways.

Making a transition in an organization can encompass a long period of time. Months, even years can go by while past leadership evolves into installing a new set of leadership.

Of course, in organizational structures that include boards of directors, there is frequent change at that level, even when the executive structure is stable.

A few years ago, we witnessed a leadership change downtown as a longtime director left Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street and a shift followed as new leadership settled in.

These shifts and changes don’t signal anything wrong with prior leadership, of course. They are the natural progression of how organizations work – be it in the nonprofit world, business or private sector.

We may get the call soon that our city manager, Steve Arbo, is leaving to take another job. If that happens, expect a long changeover to take place at Lee’s Summit City Hall as elected officials and others work to not only replace Arbo and the institutional knowledge that leaves with him, but to also protect current members of the management team and evaluate who is best to next fill that spot.

That was the challenge in front of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council this spring and into the summer.

Longtime CEO Jim Devine retired from his position a few months ago. And while many anticipated an eventual departure, you can never fully prepare for these moves until the announcement comes down.

When it does happen, and it will happen in every organization, the internal structure has to leap into action and display a range of guidance, control, patience and agility.

Some have asked why a police chief search in Lee’s Summit would take upwards of six months to complete. While that’s a fair question, it cannot be said that those leading that search didn’t take as much time as possible to find the right candidate for the job.

Six months or more may be a bit excessive. But the internal structure of our police department operates in a way where time can be taken to find the next leader.

Rick McDowell was welcomed this week as the new president of the LSEDC.

Over the next few months, we will see even more new faces at City Hall and around Lee’s Summit.

Succession planning is one of the most important things we can do to stay competitive.

While time will tell, it appears the LSEDC has done this well, just as DLSMS did a few years back with Trisha Drape.

And, we hope, that trend continues if we see department head departures at City Hall.


John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail

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