Success Story

A Healthy Approach to CEO Succession Planning

Client Profile

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) is one of 36 independent, community-based, and locally operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies. It employs more than 1,000 people and is the largest provider of health care coverage in North Dakota, insuring and/or administering claims for approximately 375,000 individuals. Since its inception in 1995, BCBSND has received the National Brand Excellence Award from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association eight times.


The Bailey Group’s previous experience with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota gave us first-hand knowledge of “the Blues” culture and led to a CEO succession-planning project with BCBSND. Beginning with a review of three internal candidates, our job was to help make sure that BCBSND selected the best possible candidate and to provide a structured process for identifying the right individual for this critical role.


To evaluate each candidate’s capabilities and executive potential, we conducted 360 interviews and a number of qualitative and quantitative assessments. After determining that all three individuals were viable candidates for the CEO position, we were asked to create an extensive development plan for each—a request that underscored the depth of BCBSND’s commitment to identifying the person best qualified for the job.

The Bailey Group’s considerable bench strength enabled each candidate to work with up to two of our coach consultants for a full year. Work included stretch assignments to better assess candidates’ talents, executive maturity, and areas that may need improvement. Also, because the candidates were close colleagues, we made a point of preparing them for what might happen if they were or were not chosen as CEO. All recognized the reality of the situation and were prepared for either outcome.

Throughout the yearlong process, our team met regularly with the BCBSND Board of Directors, which played an active role, from defining short- and long-term business priorities to providing input at critical junctures. At the end of the development process, all three candidates interviewed for the CEO role, concluding with presentations to the board. The board then selected the next CEO.


BCBSND is now well positioned in terms of CEO succession planning, with transition plans in place for the outgoing and incoming CEOs. In turn, the value of this work prompted BCBSND to engage in succession planning for other key leadership positions, including the CFO and CIO.

From the beginning, BCBSND’s leadership was transparent in its thinking and actions, highly committed to the process, and focused on one thing—getting the right person in place.

“We work with a lot of organizations,” says a psychologist coach from The Bailey Group. “Many shortcut their development processes. BCBSND didn’t, which is why it worked so well. They made a huge investment in three people who can help lead the company now and in the future. And they treated us like a strategic partner at every juncture.”

Often, CEO succession planning is discussed but no formal plan is made, leaving an organization scrambling when a CEO leaves. Thanks to The Bailey Group, we put together a formal succession plan, identified three potential internal candidates, and created robust development plans for each, resulting in the hiring of a strong successor and a thorough, thoughtful transition of CEOs. And the dividends of that work didn’t stop there. It cultivated a forward-thinking mindset, prompting us to be proactive with other future leadership needs.

Tim Huckle

President and CEO

Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota

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