“Succession planning is a deliberate and systematic effort by an organization to ensure leadership continuity in key positions, to retain and develop intellectual and knowledge capital for the future, and encourage individual advancement,” says William Rothwell in his book Effective Succession Planning. I think this is a great definition of succession planning and it contains several key words to explore.
“Deliberate” is the first word that comes to mind. Sometimes succession is viewed as something that just happens over time. A position becomes available and you either have qualified internal candidates or executive search alternatives to fill the opening. This approach can - and will - work, but it probably is not the best practice. An overt effort by your company to plan for and groom successors to step into key positions is generally going to provide the best opportunity for a successful transition.
Rothwell also uses the word “systematic,” suggesting a formalized process of identifying, developing, and grooming candidates. This includes processes for periodic performance reviews, training, and development plans. Systematizing the effort ensures it becomes part of your firm’s focus and culture.
Continuity is also an important part of a successful transition. I think of continuity in this context to include such matters as firm culture, leadership style, specific business initiatives, and business momentum. Not paying attention to these factors during the succession transition causes distractions and loss of focus, which obviously detract from the profitability of your business.
Be deliberate and systematize the succession process to give your organization the best possible opportunity for a successful leadership transition.
Does your business have a succession plan in place? Share in the comments.