Along with others, we were scratching our heads yesterday when Twitter announced a convoluted CEO transition plan with the current CEO exiting, the company’s founder returning as “interim CEO,” and the Board conducting a search to find the new CEO.
None of the public explanations of this plan made any sense, so we asked ourselves and others what was really going on.
Here’s what’s really going on.
The assumption and intention of this process is for Twitter’s founder and early CEO, Jack Dorsey, to become Twitter’s permanent CEO. Everyone hopes that Dorsey’s authority and vision as a founder will galvanize Twitter and allow the company to finally figure out how it wants to evolve its service and what it wants to be going forward.
However, there are some complications on both sides that makes this weird “interim” process make sense…
- Jack Dorsey already has another full-time CEO job. He’s the CEO of Square, another company he founded after he was forced out as Twitter CEO. Square is a big, successful company, and Dorsey has commitments there that may be hard to quickly exit from. At the very least, Dorsey did not likely want to stun Square investors with the news that he was suddenly abandoning the company.
- Jack Dorsey will almost certainly not succeed as a part-time CEO. Dorsey has tried the half-Twitter, half-Square thing before. He tried to be the Twitter product visionary and the Square CEO at the same time. That failed. Dorsey then left Twitter again and became the full-time Square CEO.
- Jack Dorsey may not succeed as Twitter’s CEO — or be happy as Twitter’s CEO — even if he fully commits to it. There are questions on Twitter’s Board as to whether Dorsey will be a good leader of the company even with all the founder and CEO experience he has. This “interim” period will allow both the Board and Dorsey to see how everything goes.
- The Board will be able to cover itself by doing a broad search. If Dorsey fails as CEO, investors will scream. The Board wants to assure itself — and be able to tell investors — that there’s no one better out there.
In short, if this trial period doesn’t work out well, both Twitter’s Board and Jack Dorsey now have an easy, face-saving out. And Dorsey also has time to exit some of his other commitments.