Going Through The Motions of Succession Planning

by: Kathryn Yeung

“Succession planning” is a powerful talent management tool that companies use to identify top talent and develop leadership capabilities that will enhance corporate performance.  Unfortunately, many companies just go through the “motions” and are simply management planning rather than succession planning.

career-ladder

What’s the difference?

Management planning chooses successors for top-level roles – those with a high degree of responsibility for business operations.   Succession planning, on the other hand, is an ongoing process of identifying, developing and retaining future leaders and knowledge experts who will eventually move into critical roles, at all levels.

You may be management planning if:

  • Your planning takes place on an annual basis, likely for annual board review, then sits on a shelf collecting dust until the next year (even if key senior roles become vacant during the year).
  • Leaders roll their eyes when requested to provide content and names to the plan, because they don’t see value in the exercise.
  • Your leaders cannot articulate the importance and relevance of the plan, beyond the annual board requirement, and there is no perceived linkage to the objectives of the business.

An effective succession management program should be:

  • Implemented at all levels within the organization – “Critical” roles (that require in-depth expertise and would negatively impact the business if vacant), are not exclusively situated at the top of the corporate ladder!  They exist at all levels of the organization and therefore require robust succession and development planning regardless of the level.
  • An on-going, integrated process – While you may only need to discuss successors on an annual basis, each time a critical role becomes vacant the succession plan should guide who should be considered to fill the role, temporarily or permanently.  The plan should form the basis of other talent management initiatives such as leadership development, retention, recognition, performance management and recruitment.
  • Accompanied by strong development plans – When done well, succession plans incorporate ongoing dialogue and updates to guide the learning of the next set of skills needed for the role(s) for which successors have been identified.
  • A business imperative – The plan, which outlines the roles, successors, emerging leaders and desired skills and behaviours, will help the organization achieve its future direction and vision.

So, are you just “going through the motions” of management planning or are you proactively ensuring the future leadership and competitive expertise of your organization’s future?

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