Successful Planning: Is Your Organisation There Yet?

September 9, 2014

The rise or fall of organisations has depended on the success of succession planning. GE succeeded, P&G is struggling and JC Penny outright failed in their attempt at filling in the top position at the organisation.

SLuccession planning is the practice of identifying and developing in-house candidates for top executive positions. Considering that at many large public companies the CEO turnover averages about once every three years, this is one of the most critical tasks for the corporate boards of the organisation. Many organisations use succession planning for business critical roles in the organisation to help fulfil requirements that may be created by unexpected departures in the organisation.

Here are some of the benefits of succession planning apart from ensuring business continuity:

  • It helps align employee development with the strategic vision of the organisation.
  • Builds leadership capacity of the organisation.
  • Ensures that there is a robust performance evaluation system in place for the senior leadership and all levels of the employees in the organisation.
  • Helps maintain confidence amongst the investors and customers that efforts are being taken to maintain continuity of business

However have you ever evaluated how ready your team is in terms of succession planning? Succession planning is an important tool for career planning for your employees as well. Here are some tips to check for succession planning readiness in your team or organisation and whether you are using it to your advantage:

Have all the key positions been identified in your organisation?

The C-level positions in your organisations of course need a succession plan in place. But what about all the other vital positions? You however need to be careful to ensure that the focus is on identification of key positions and not key talent. Its easy to assume that a great performer occupies a key position, but in reality that may not be the case and there may be other business critical positions that may get overlooked because of this.

Does your organisation have well-established systems and procedures?

Though this may not be directly linked with succession planning per se, its essential to ensure that there is enough knowledge and know-how in the system that enables any the organisation to continue to critical tasks even if the key individual leaves the organisation. In this regard, its also essential to have robust knowledge management system.

Has the backup candidate been identified for all the business critical positions in the organisation?

Do you have a backup candidate identified for all the critical positions in the organisation and is there an alternative to the backup is an important question that you may need to answer at this stage. And if there is no backup what other options you have in terms of recruiting from outside or train and groom another internal candidate to take up the position in the future.

Are the chosen incumbents being groomed to take up future responsibility?

Grooming is the key to help the identified candidate take on higher responsibilities. As a manager or leader you need to ensure that there is a clearly defined timeline for the identified incumbent to take up the new position as an endless wait to assume the new position could be very demotivating and the employee may be forced to look for other options with the feeling that they could be stagnating in the organisation.

Is there a clearly defined developmental plan to bridge the competency gaps?

There needs to be a developmental plan to close the gaps between the current skill sets of the potential successor and the skills required for the role that he is being elevated to. Though training is a good option most employers prefer to provide a more hands-on experience for the candidate. This could mean projects or an assignment to work in another geography or country where they can prove their mettle.

Are there additional development plans and roles for the aspirants who do not make it to their desired role?

During succession planning only one candidate gets selected from a pool of equally qualified and talented individuals. Its important to not let the remaining candidates get demotivated and feel that they have no future in the organisation. They need to be presented with alternate career paths else it could lead to attrition of good performers in the organisation.

Are there checks in the organisations to ensure that the plans for succession are actually being implemented?

Though planning for succession is not easy, even more difficult is to make sure that the plans formulated are actually being implemented in the organisation. This responsibility usually rests with the senior leadership team for the critical jobs in the organisation and with company boards for the CEO level succession. This is why senior leadership commitment to the process is so essential, else initiatives for bridging the competency gap, providing cross-functional experience and providing alternate career options will fall flat and have negative consequences for the organisation.

While these are some of the important items that will help you assess the overall readiness of the organisation for succession planning, there are many other aspects of the process that need discussion and clarity for the process owners, the incumbent, external stakeholders and the organisation as a whole.

Many thanks

Stewart Bull

Senior Trainer & Consultant

Mark Williams 3