BatsignalIf there were “bat signal” for strategic relationships, like the one Commissioner Gordon would use to summon Batman, Larry Ellison could flash it at the sky tonight.

If there were such a thing, the relationships Ellison needs to master his exit from Oracle’s CEO role—as well as the ones Oracle needs to make a smooth transition to its next leadership team—would appear as swiftly as the Caped Crusader.

Larry’s new role will be executive chairman—he’s not exactly headed for green pastures full-time, or his island in Hawaii or his yacht, either. He will continue to work on Oracle’s technology as its chief technology officer, reported the New York Times. But he’s definitely going to be revising in his daily priorities and his working relationships, internal and external to the organization.

In times of transition, strategic relationships show their fundamental value. It’s time for Ellison to call on his board of advisors. Here’s hoping he’s invested in developing those relationships prior to this moment of truth.

Meanwhile, what of Oracle’s new leaders? Current chairman Jeffrey Henley is slated to become vice chairman. Oracle’s chief executive job will be shared by Mark Hurd, now co-president, and Safra Catz, co-president and chief financial officer, according to news reports. The most foundational responsibility of a board is succession planning for the firm’s top leadership, and it looks like Oracle has that task well in hand (unlike Microsoft when Steve Ballmer resigned in summer 2013). Are Hurd and Catz ready for “herding cats”? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) They will need their strategic relationships more than ever in the weeks and months ahead. Not only to structure their collaboration as co-executives, but to manage their impact on Oracle’s entire organization radiating out from “Mahogany Row”.  Their influence footprint has just been transformed. Are the relationships in place to leverage this opportunity for Oracle’s next era?

In my work as a thought leader in relationship economics, I consult on executive performance frequently. I’ve long believed that executives with a high-quality and diverse portfolio of relationships have a higher propensity to succeed in a new position. I counsel my mentees to develop and work a Strategic Relationship Plan—a specific, personal plan encompassing:

  1. Relationship currency deposits: What investments are you willing and able to make?
  2. Current relationship bank: Whom do you know?
  3. Pivotal contacts: Whom do you need?
  4. Relationship-centric goals: What are you trying to accomplish?

“Luck favors the prepared,” the saying goes. If Oracle has prepared well, it will now experience the “luck” of an orderly transition. I believe Oracle’s leaders have been accumulating relationship capital, by initiating, nurturing, and sustaining strategic relationships, according to the principles of strategic relationship planning. Times of transition can bring crisis, opportunity, or both. Strategic relationships can mitigate the crisis and enhance the opportunity.

I’ll be watching the sky for the Oracle “bat sign” and continuing to observe the industry to see how the Oracle transition plays out. Indications are good that Oracle—and Ellison—will be just fine.

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