While past performance is a strong indicator of future performance there are a few small variables to take into account.
1. Is it the same field/industry/product line or even close?
2. What is the starting point – complete clean slate or existing baggage?
3. What is the support structure and team surrounding some one – weak, new, worn out?
4. How much time and flexibility do they have?
There are very few people that can do the same amazing things in one area/sport/business and then show the same level of skill in another. Finding a Jim Thorpe in business is rare and without knowing the starting field and unseen issues it is easy to miss the point with Johnson and J.C. Penny.
In all business there is risk. That risk can be so great that the chances of success are almost nil. The question should be, is JCPenny’s able to evolve and become relevant once again or has the world so changed and the brand has not that no matter who steps in there is almost not chance? Was this a DOA business turn around? Its one thing to launch the Apple store concept, it is a completely different thing to take something from the 1890’s and make it “a new!”
Maybe it is less about trying to bring in someone to create a change or even someone to try and bring back once was. Is it time for J.C. Penny’s, Sear’s, Kmart and other turn of the past century retailers to merge and become something new, something different?