The HBO hit Succession has a lot of fans among FGS strategists—even when the plotlines come too close for comfort.
On the eve of the show’s final episode, a few of our colleagues—Kyle Daly, Kerry Golds, Jill Lesser and Megan Moore—shared some thoughts about the show’s themes and what rings true about the industries and dynamics it depicts.
- Succession planning matters. The biggest challenge for a CEO transition is when there’s no plan, and the CEO is also a founder who has a hard time letting go. Succession planning can work very well when there is an intentional process with the board. Sometimes there is a proclivity to pick an internal candidate who has come up through the business. But given the amount of change that we’ve seen in the last few years—the pandemic, the transition to hybrid work, etc.—external candidates can provide much needed fresh thinking.
- There are some extraordinary elements in the way Waystar is managed. Most companies are run by an executive leadership team with a CEO who knows how to get the best out of them. Decisions tend not to be entirely personality-driven. At the same time, the tone and tenor a CEO sets really do trickle down. Logan Roy’s competitive eat-or-be-eaten, winner-takes-all environment makes it difficult for anyone to thrive professionally.
- The show reflects a media industry in flux. Everyone is trying to figure out how to evolve the business model toward streaming. The last few years focused on growth and subscribers and in the last 12-18 months it’s all about profitability. There’s a lot of anxiety and change.
- The relationship between business and the media is well-drawn. The Season 2 New York Magazine story plotline felt very real. The company tries to get the story killed but then realizes the reporting is there, followed by the familiar flurry of trying to read as quickly as possible, find the most damaging nuggets, figure out what the news cycle will be and steer it from there. And then, for better or for worse, like everything in today’s rapid-fire media cycle, everyone moves on.
- The congressional hearing is a lesson in what not to do. Do not dismiss the hearing. Don’t destroy documents. Don’t be a difficult witness. Don’t be feisty. Prep. Lean on your friends in Congress, lean on places where you’re a major employer and provide economic benefits. Be humble, apologize, own the decision and fix the problem.