by Peter High, published on Forbes
Like many executives at Procter & Gamble, Linda Clement-Holmes has had a wide array of responsibilities at the $76 billion Cincinnati, Ohio-based consumer packaged goods company. She has been the chief diversity officer, the senior vice president of global business services, and the global information & decision solutions officer. This is emblematic of the way in which P&G thinks about talent management. Once a rising star has been identified, provide them both depth and breadth of experience. When Clement-Holmes became CIO, she had been groomed for years for this post, and came to it with a much deeper understanding of how value is created within her enterprise than most new CIOs.
Clement-Holmes managed a rare feat for a new CIO, as well, as she was already a board member of a multi-billion dollar public company, Cincinnati Financial Corporation,before she became chief information officer. For those who might wish to follow in her footsteps, she attributes not only the diversity of her experiences within P&G, but also her willingness to spend time on non-profit boards in preparing her for her for-profit board experience. Clement-Holmes goes on to describe the substance of her first IT strategy as CIO, the methods she has used to encourage future female leaders in IT and beyond, and the technology trends that particularly excite her.
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Peter High: You were groomed for this role for some time, and your ascension in many ways is a sign of great continuity between your predecessor and yourself. You had been part of the leadership team that formulated IT strategy before you were CIO, just as you now lead a team doing the same. Given the lead time you have had, how did you use the time to prepare for this role?
Linda Clement-Holmes: I had a great mentor in Filippo [Passerini], who did a great job. Like you said, it was not a case where I came in behind somebody who was asked to leave and so forth. He had been CIO for well over ten years. It was much more about understanding more about what we needed to do going forward, and how to lead an organization or an IT function of IT professionals in a way that keeps us moving and relevant as we had been the last ten years.
At P&G because we promote from within, it is not abnormal to have what happened to me happen to anybody because we have a process of senior leadership looking at a regular review of succession planning that includes everything from whether we have a diverse pipeline, and whether our leaders have the right experiences that we need them to have going forward. They do that in conjunction with looking for where the business as the whole needs to go. They do that constantly. It is not a one-time thing. That is what happens when you have a “promote from within” type company.
Every now and then, we may have a specific unique set of skills needed that are in short supply. For example, I just hired our Chief Information Security Officer from the outside because the world changed so much in the last two years when it comes to cyber security. Those skills are not ones that we naturally have internally and have grown up with. In a case like that, we went outside and hired our Vice President for that. Our two legal officers were the same thing. We needed people with specific types of experiences. We will do that when necessary, but for the most part we try to groom and grow our leadership from within the P&G pipeline of talent because we have such strong talent to begin with.
High: The succession planning process involves a lot of grooming, and rounding out one’s skill set before they ascend to new leadership roles. What was the process like for you, and how has it translated to the leaders who are currently targeted for future leadership roles?