Death is never easy, and it’s hard to say if sudden death is “better” or “worse”. In times of grief such words become irrelevant.
This article is not about death per se, or even sudden death, but the ripple effect a sudden and unexpected death can have.
When someone is dying slowly, due to illness perhaps, there is time for preparation. People get ready. They get their finances in order. They say goodbye to friends and loved one. They all find ways to prepare.
When you lead a large organization, this also includes solidifying your succession plans, which for large organizations is very important.
An Example of The Ripple Effect
In 1996 I was recruited to join then the relatively small company of Seagate Software, a wholly owned subsidiary of Seagate Technology.
At that time Seagate Software was 11 different software companies which needed to be “knit” together into one company. I was hired to lead the IT part of that integration.
Part of the interview process was meeting the CEO. Although I can still see his face, I can’t recall his name. Googling for his name online did not reveal his name. Perhaps someone out there knows.
Anyway, what’s important was he had a vision for Seagate Software, and I recall thinking it made sense. His vision was more than “just” financial performance, which is something I’ve always related to. His thinking was very strategic.
Then on a routine business trip to Vancouver, he died of a heart attack while sleeping. He seemed healthy. His sudden death took everyone by surprise.
Someone else became CEO, and while Terry did a fine job, Terry seemed much more tactical.
Not only was Seagate Software never the same, Seagate Software was a very short lived enterprise as a separate company. Some months later Seagate Software was fully folded into Seagate Technology and quite literally ceased to exist. Later still, pieces of it were spun out and sold.
I could be wrong but I believe the trajectory of Seagate Software was changed forever when the CEO died suddenly.
What will this mean for SurveyMonkey? How would I know?
A possibly even more interesting question is what will this mean for Facebook?
Sheryl Sandberg just became a widow, and a single parent to two young children.
Her children’s world has changed forever, as has hers.
Coincidentally she’s also the COO of one of the most known companies on Earth.
Will this sudden death change SurveyMoney? No doubt about it.
Will this sudden death change Sheryl and her kids? Definitely.
Will this sudden death change Facebook? Probably. Exactly how, no one can yet say.