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Succession planning: Countdown to Jack Ma handing over the reins at Alibaba

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A sound succession plan is key for the ongoing success of any company. It applies to companies of all sizes – from modestly sized SMEs, right up to giants such as Alibaba.

In just a few short months, Alibaba CEO and founder Jack Ma will step down from the Hangzhou-headquartered company. As with any organisation’s ongoing success, it will be crucial to choose the right replacement or replacements.

Ma, who was an English teacher who co-founded the biggest eCommerce platform on the planet, reportedly formulated a management plan 10 years in the making to prepare the next generation of younger executives to run Asia’s most valuable company.

According to Investopedia, a good succession plan “evaluates each leader’s skills, identifying potential replacements both within and outside the company and, in the case of internal replacements, training those employees so they’re prepared to take over”.

“In large corporations, the board of directors, not just the CEO, will typically oversee succession planning. Also, in large corporations, succession planning impacts not just owners and employees, but shareholders as well,” according to Investopedia.

Clearly, there is a lot at stake in ensuring the succession plan unfolds smoothly.

Alibaba’s succession plan makes it one of the few Asian companies to make a conscious decision to separate its corporate structure and daily operations from its founder.

“There are a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” said Ma, during an interview with Bloomberg Television following his announcement he was stepping down.

“There are so many things that I want to devote my time to – education, the environment, philanthropy. Anybody who knows me knows I embrace the future. This is not about retiring, stepping away, or backing off. This is a systematic plan.”

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