Succession Planning

In order to be successful and competitive in today’s business world, whether a small, medium or large firm, there must be a plan for the future.  Change is our one constant in our world, and preparing for transitions is the responsibility of leaders.  It is never too early to begin developing this plan for the future, and sooner is better than later.  In addition to defining priorities, drafting clear expectations of your leadership, and developing a reasonable budget, a “talent management” program should be created, whose purpose is to meet the goals of a Succession Plan.

Here are some beginning steps:

  • Set up solid priorities and goals for the organization.  Use practical and efficient processes in order to accomplish these for successful outcomes.
  • Carefully select and train effective and experienced leaders, who are strong in motivation and are able to “walk the walk”.  Your leaders must be of high integrity and demonstrate good character traits to inspire others.
  • Begin identifying early potential successors, with a plan to groom and coach for the positions that best fit their strengths.
  • Your Talent Management process should include impartial yet effective instructors covering programs of strategic activities in order to expose candidates to experiences that will educate them, as well as encourage creative, out-of-the-box thinking.  Also, look for those who know of and use appropriate resources.

A SUCCESSION PLAN is a process where the job descriptions/responsibilities of the key Executive Team (usually including all C-Level executives, as well as the President, and sometimes Senior Vice Presidents) is reviewed and determined if any areas should be adjusted, keeping potential replacements in mind when/if an executive leaves or is no longer with the organization.  It is important to understand the organization’s culture and priorities in order to note what tasks and routines need to be followed to keep the entity strong and successful for the future.  The initial Succession Plan should be a MAP to replace the Key Executive Team.  It is wise to use an impartial facilitator to partner with HR through this process.

Other factors involved with Succession Planning include A) Senior Leaders are expected to be involved;  B) The Senior Leaders are responsible for growing future leaders of the organization; C) In order for the senior leaders to react responsibly, there needs to be Strategic Planning in place, including a healthy financial plan prepared; D) Leadership Competencies need to be identified (assessments) and used for selection and development; E) A pool of talent should be identified and developed for future needs.

PARTIAL SUCCESSION PLANS can be developed in three different scenarios:

  • TEMPORARY (or SHORT-TERMED) REPLACEMENTS are sometimes needed if a leader becomes ill or there is a family illness/tragedy.  Such replacements are usually only needed for 30 days to 3 months.  This replacement should be accustomed to the routine and responsibilities of that vacant position but understands that this is merely a short-term bridge.  (During this time the replacement is not expected to make any serious decisions.)
  • A LONG-TERMED REPLACEMENT is occasionally needed if the illness, injury, or family catastrophe requires more time to manage – usually 4 to 6 months.  In such a case, the Replacement definitely needs more experience and exposure to this position’s responsibilities.  In both the SHORT and LONG-TERMED REPLACEMENTS should have an Executive Coach to guide and advise them in order to avoid major glitches.
  • PERMANENT REPLACEMENTS involve much more research and time, as often an Executive Search firm is utilized in recruiting an appropriate business leader and then the need of detailed interviewing and screening, etc.  In most cities an Executive Search firm charges 25% of the new replacement’s annual salary and possibly expenses.  Though this process will also require a signed contract. (Compass Career provides Retained Search for 18% of annual salary.)

A FULL SUCCESSION PLAN usually includes multiple steps.  Some of these may already be in place, i.e. a) a strategic plan with mission statements, b) once future executives are proposed, assessments are needed to identify gaps in skills, etc., c) after prospective executives are confirmed, a calendar or plan is designed for development, d) after coaching and training has begun/implemented, monitoring and evaluations are needed.

A time table should also be included in the Talent Management aspect of this process.  As the Key Executive Team identifies upcoming leadership needs, those managing the training and development will need to be sure to have appropriate candidates prepared to step up.

There are some computerized Talent Management programs available, though this would need to be discussed in advance to see if it could be covered by the budget.  Since a big part of this SUCCESSION Process is considered to be “human resource-driven”, it is recommended that an outside source be the HR Partner administering this process.  This helps with impartiality and avoids concern for unfair considerations.