A number of years ago, William Rothwell wrote an excellent book called “Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent From Within.” I refer to this book often, as it offers a comprehensive look at what businesses need to do to ensure they have a solid succession plan in place.
Using the steps outlined in the book as a base, and incorporating my work with private companies facing succession issues, here are ten key steps to creating a successful succession plan:
- Make the commitment to plan. Creating a plan involves a significant investment of time and effort. Make sure you commit adequate time up front and throughout the process.
- Assess the job description and attributes necessary to be successful in the position. This should include an evaluation of what the future position might look like as well as the skill set that will be needed from your potential candidates.
- Appraise the performance of potential candidates in their current positions. This may seem obvious, but if someone is not performing at a very high level in their current position, they likely are not a good succession candidate. Assess the overall bench strength of your organization.
- Assess the talents, abilities, and personal attributes of your candidates and their future potential. What are each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses? Do you feel they display the capacity to take on a more senior role at some point in the future?
- Determine the development programs and experiences that are necessary to enhance candidates’ skills to ready them for succession. What do candidates need to “fill the gap” between their current skill set and what will be required in the future?
- Evaluate employee retention practices and programs. Take a close look at what you are doing to keep high performing candidates motivated and enthused about the organization. You want to try to ensure your potential succession candidates are still with the organization when you need them to step into the new role!
- Evaluate your candidates’ progress. As your candidates progress through the organization, are they developing in the areas necessary to accomplish a successful succession? Do you see evidence that they will be ready for the challenges ahead?
- Be prepared for false starts. Nothing ever runs as smoothly as you would like. Employees can decide to leave. They may not develop adequately. They may simply decide that they are not ready for, or want, the added responsibility of the new position. Make sure you have a “plan B” for these possible outcomes.
- Plan for the financial implications of transition. Particularly if the transition is one of ownership, there will be significant financial implications for which there will need to be much planning. Getting ahead of this by doing some planning now will save you time, and likely money, down the road.
- Continually evaluate your succession planning model or approach. Learn from your mistakes. Consider what has worked and has not worked in the past and adjust your process accordingly.
It is often said that a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Investing the time and effort to create a strong succession plan for your organization will pay off in the form of the long-term success and health of your business.
What do you see as the keys to a successful succession for your business? Share in the comments.