Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

In keeping with the theme of this newsletter in terms of employee development, let’s turn to some best practices regarding Succession Planning. By the way, most organizations don’t do this. And because they don’t, they are often caught flat-footed when someone unexpectedly leaves or earns a promotion.

We just can’t get why so few do Succession Planning. It isn’t hard. And it is the essence of a contingency plan. All executives should be able to sleep at night knowing that nobody is irreplaceable. And, if an A player leaves, we have at least one contingency plan in place.

Here are five best practices of effective Succession Planning:

  1. Write the plan down. Many executives say that they have the succession plan “in their head.” That isn’t good enough. It doesn’t need to be 10 pages—even one page will do.
  2. Don’t keep it secret. We think that we may hurt people’s feelings if their names are left out of the succession plan. That’s not a good enough reason. We know of one instance when a leader left the organization. As he was leaving, he was told that he was on the succession plan. His response was, “Now you tell me? That’s why I’m leaving. I didn’t think I was part of the future here. It’s too late now.”
  3. Re-evaluate it annually. Many people leave, retire, or get sick in a given year. You’ll be amazed how much a succession plan can change year over year. Because it is a simple plan, all you should need is 30 minutes to dust it off.
  4. Develop targeted training and leadership interventions based on the succession plan. For those on the succession plan not ready for their predicted position now, preparation is necessary. For what some call Ready Now candidates, a specific training, mentorship, or leadership plan should be implemented to close any gaps to improve readiness.
  5. Use the 2% Rule of Thumb. Keep the succession plan focused on only the key, critical positions. Anything more could be a waste of time, resource, and/or capacity. In general, we have found that the 2% Rule of Thumb is a good yardstick. In a 1,000 person organization, there are probably around 20 key positions that should have a succession plan.

For nuance into the art and science of succession planning, please contact Robin Bichy at