In our previous post, we discussed what succession planning is and how it benefits the CEO and organization.

Approaches to Succession Planning

Top Down – The plan is developed from the upper management or CEO with no input from other second or third level management.

Market-Driven – Significant changes in the market identify the need for talent that is not resident in the company.

Career Planning – The plan is an outgrowth of having a strong career development process in place and builds off its platform.

Event Driven – The organization confronts a situation where the lack of a succession plan impacts the business significantly.

Strategic – The CEO and management team have linked the future of the company with how deep their talent pool is in the organization.

Effective Succession Planning Program Characteristics

As you evaluate succession planning initiatives, there are some common themes for creating exceptional and results orientated programs. Some of these are:

  • Engages leadership
  • Grounds the agenda in business needs
  • Focuses on action through program management
  • Identifies outcomes
  • Assesses talent – top to bottom
  • Follows a systematic methodology
  • Evaluates talent on current performance and future potential
  • Identifies critical positions
  • Identifies talent beyond one promotional step
  • Holds leaders are accountable for development
  • Development plans are created and followed
  • Fosters mentor relationships
  • Taps into on the job development
  • Raises the bar through critical thinking skills

There is a strong reliance on the top leadership to embrace this succession planning with a high degree of importance and not just another exercise. If your organizational culture is getting in the way, consider if you are facing some of the pitfalls.

Avoid Succession Planning Pitfalls

Any of these pitfalls can become a deal killer. Fix them first.

  • Lack of support
  • Corporate/family politics
  • Quick fix attitudes
  • Low visibility
  • Change is too fast
  • Overwhelming paperwork
  • Too many meetings

Measuring Succession Planning Success

Ask whether or not you have covered the four basic questions about succession planning.

  • Who? Have we included everyone?
  • How? Are we using a reliable process?
  • What? Do we know what we want to measure?
  • Why? Does this fit into the company’s strategic plan?

Four Levels of Evaluation

  1. Customer satisfaction – Are all the customers (CEO/Management/Employees) engaged and benefiting from the process? Are their needs being met?
  2. Program progress – Are the initiatives and development plans committed to during the process being done?
  3. Effective placements – Do we have talent ready when at the time openings occur?
  4. Organizational results – Is the organization able to respond to the marketplace more quickly?

Succession planning may sound a bit complicated. The first time the plan is created it may take more time than doing an update the following year. High turnover or acquiring a new group will increase the time you spend on the plan too; however, in those cases you probably should be devoting more time to the people side of the business.