Bernard Tyson's familiarity in crafting Kaiser Permanente's long-term strategies and knowledge of regulatory trends helped convince system leaders to select him as the successor to retiring Chairman and CEO George Halvorson.
The Oakland, Calif.-based healthcare system announced last week that Tyson, its president and chief operating officer, would take over as CEO after a six-month transition period and assume the role as chairman by the end of 2013. Kaiser selected Tyson, 52, from a pool of eight candidates, said Kaiser board member Judith Johansen, who chaired the process.
Halvorson, 62, “gave us enough time that we never were in any panic to find his replacement,” Johansen said, calling the process a “textbook succession and textbook transition.”
Kaiser retained a consulting firm, Los Angeles-headquartered Korn/Ferry International, to recruit external candidates. Johansen wouldn't say how many of the eight candidates were internal or external, sharing only that the pool had a good mix, and that members of Kaiser's board met with each candidate.
Halvorson has been CEO since 2002 and will remain with Kaiser until the end of 2013. He was ranked No. 6 on Modern Healthcare's 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2012
, and he has appeared on the annual list 10 times.
Ideally, hospitals should start building a succession plan three to five years before departure, said Judy Thorp, a managing director at Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group. The choice to pick an internal candidate to fill a high-level vacancy often ensures easier transitions.
“It appears Kaiser will probably have a smoother transition, but even with that, you're going to have bumps in the road,” Thorp said. “There always will be the question of who is going to fill (Tyson's) position, as you've vacated another position. It's a domino effect.”
Modern Healthcare named Tyson to its Top 25 Minority Executives list in 2010
, and he has promoted diversity in the healthcare industry. That was one of Tyson's many strengths as the 13-member board weighed the decision, Johansen said.
“We know Bernard,” she said. “He is a solid citizen, and we've never had questions or concerns about his reputation, and to be honest, all of the candidates we interviewed—internally and externally—are very highly regarded in the healthcare industry nationally.”