There’s more to succession planning than coming up with
lists of candidates for important positions on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Unfortunately, that’s about as far as some companies take
it (if they’re doing it at all). Then they end up scrambling looking for
replacements, hiring overly paid and risky outsiders, or over-promoting
years. The companies that do it right – as measured by bottom-line results – seem
to follow all if not most of the following 10 best practices:
commitment and involvement of the CEO and Board.
It’s not an HR driven paperwork exercise – the CEO owns it, and has regular
reviews with the entire Board or a Board subcommittee. Board members contribute
to the process by providing feedback, asking great questions, and holding the
regular talent reviews. The Board reviews talent with the CEO,
the CEO reviews talent with the executive team, each executive team member
reviews talent with their teams, and the process cascades down throughout the
organization. A wide net is cast for rising stars and poor performers are dealt
identify viable successors for a handful of key “C level” positions.
Then, they identify “pools” of high potentials for the top levels of the organization
that can be developed for positions that may not even exist today.
a “pipeline” approach to development, with the identification
and development of talent at ALL levels of the organization.
the executive team accountable. They measure key
activities and results, and often tie it to executive compensation.
with business strategy. They “connect the dots” – they can
clearly articulate the business case for doing succession planning (or the
consequences of not doing it).
the irrational, political, and emotional dynamics of succession.
Ask anyone who’s ever been in the thick of a succession planning program. Or
talk to any CEO that’s faced with the prospect of “letting go”. It’s not for
the faint of heart, and can’t be overlooked. This is the stuff that you won’t
find in a textbook, but comes with experience and emotional intelligence.
performance and potential. They don’t gamble on past
performance as a predictor of future success in a new role. That’s a high risk
bet. They use a variety of effective ways to assess potential with relevant, consistent
succession planning with performance management, recruitment, selection, development and rewards.
It’s not some super-secret process done in isolation in a smoke-filled room.
serious commitment to development (time and resources). Succession planning
without investing in development is nothing but a useless exercise in futility.
The best companies spend more time developing candidates than they do creating
So no one’s perfect. Where are your biggest
opportunities? Where is the best place to get started? What’s one thing you can
start doing now?