Executive Coaching Articles

Succession Planning Organization

Succession planning is a hot topic of conversation in today’s offices and boardrooms. But talk is cheap and talking about it vs. doing it are two entirely different things. Whether you are a Fortune 500 executive or the head of a family-owned business, a good succession plan can make or break your company’s future success. So how do you design a succession planning organization strategy?

  • Visualize it
  • Build it
  • Monitor it

Take Samantha, for example. She had to step into the CEO spot at her family-owned company when her father became ill. The first thing she realized was that nobody in the company was prepared for this emergency, including herself. The second thing she realized was that they weren’t prepared for any similar contingencies throughout the entire company. Without succession planning, their entire organization might go down in flames at the next emergency. Samantha went to work immediately to develop her succession plan. If you’re facing a similar challenge try following in Samantha’s footsteps.

  1. Visualize it. This may sound simplistic, but it’s also simple. Start with an organization chart of the entire company. Fill in all the blanks. Then color-code each block, depending on the current state of that particular position. Start with four position categories: currently filled, currently vacant, expected to become vacant, and ready to be promoted. You may want to add other categories unique to your situation. For example, if you use outside consultants or contractors for some positions, give them a different color code. Once you’ve done this, you can easily see exactly where your weak spots are.
  1. Build it. Based on what your organization chart shows, you’re ready to develop your succession plan. Focus first on internal candidates in the blocks that say “ready to be promoted.” This should be your easiest step, as these people could move up with little or no training. However, it might be a good idea to get them into a coaching program now, in order to further refine their leadership skills. Next, you need to deal with positions that are vacant or could become vacant. Begin with identifying potential replacements within the organization, even if they are not in the direct line of succession. How do the possible candidates measure up against the competencies you’ll need? What kinds of trainings, seminars, classes, and coaching programs can help develop competencies that aren’t up to par? Each manager can then sit down with his or her direct reports to develop plans that will prepare them for the next step up.
  1. Monitor it. To keep your succession plan on track, you’ll need to use a variety of tools, such as lateral moves, job rotation, and special project assignments, along with your internal and external training and development. In order to hold your people accountable, develop a customized timeline for each position to close developmental gaps. Then schedule progress meetings to track performance against goals. Set up financial and non-financial incentives based on these goals.

When you implement a succession planning program such as this, you’ll go a long way toward retaining your superior employees because they appreciate the time, attention, and development you’ve invested in them. People stay motivated and engaged when they can see clearly that the path ahead of them leads to personal growth and career success.