How to Do Succession Planning

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    How to Do Successful Succession Planning

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    © Copyright Carter McNamara,
    MBA, PhD

    How to Do Successful Succession Planning

    Guidelines to Successful Succession Planning

    (Various other phrases are used to refer to aspects of succession planning,
    including succession management and transition management.)

    Management is responsible to ensure that the organization continually has high-quality
    operations and employees. One of the most important practices to meet this responsibility
    is to conduct successful succession planning. Employees leave their jobs either
    on a planned or unplanned basis. Unplanned termination may occur because of
    sudden illnesses or death, or poor performance on the part of the employee.
    Planned termination usually occurs because the employee is making a career or
    life change.

    Especially regarding managers in the workplace, demographic trends indicate
    that there are not sufficient numbers of next-generation leaders to replace
    retiring baby boomers in organizations. Thus, succession management is an increasingly
    important priority. Consider the following advice.

    Basic Principles of Successful Succession Planning

    • Do not wait until the employee will be leaving. Start planning now.

      Succession planning is a matter of strong practices in personnel management,
      not a matter of sudden crisis management. Start attending those practices
    • Focus on policies, procedures, and practices, not on personalities.
      Succession planning is being able to effectively and promptly re-fill a role,
      not replacing a certain person. Be sure all key positions are defined well,
      and then look to find the best person to fill the position. Do not look for
      someone who is just like, or a lot different than, the previous employee.
    • Succession planning is the responsibility of the management, not
      just the employee.

      The best succession planning results from 1) a working partnership between
      management and employees to accurately define the employee’s role and
      current priorities, and 2) the employee ensuring that management has the information
      and resources to refill the role.
    • Succession planning should be in accordance with up-to-date personnel

      The hiring of new employees must be in accordance with up-to-date personnel policies
      to ensure fair, equitable, and legally compliant employment practices.
    • Quality in managing succession is proportionate to the quality of
      the new employee.

      The best way for management to promptly convey expectations of high quality
      to a new employee is to convey that high quality in how the employee was hired.
      The more thoroughly and carefully that management does the succession, the more
      likely that the organization will get a new employee who successfully fills
      the position for the long term.

    Key Practices in Successful Succession of Managers

    If the organization has already established strong practices in governance,
    leadership, and management, then succession planning often is a matter of using
    current practices, rather than establishing many new ones. Key practices include

    • A strategic plan that clearly conveys the organization’s mission
      and current strategic priorities. Ideally, that plan also includes specific
      action plans that specify who is going to do what and by when in order to
      address each priority.
    • Up-to-date and management-approved personnel policies about hiring, supervising
      and firing personnel in a fair and equitable manner that complies with employment
    • An up-to-date job description for each of the roles, and that explains
      the general duties and responsibilities of the positions.
    • Suitable compensation for the roles (often this is a major challenge for
      new organizations because they often have very limited resources).
    • An annual calendar of the role’s most important activities, for example,
      when the person in that role evaluates personnel, does any staffing analysis,
      updates job descriptions and participates in important committees.
    • Regular reports from the person in the role. These reports should include
      the trends, highlights, and issues regarding the person’s activities.
    • Evaluation of the person on an annual basis, including in reference to
      the job description and any performance goals established for that role.
    • Arrangements with the person when he or she goes on vacation so that others
      have an opportunity to effectively replace the employee if only for a temporary
      period of time.
    • A complete list of major stakeholders – of people who have an interest
      in, or will be influenced by, the employee’s leaving and being replaced
      by someone else. Get a list, including contact information and also how each
      is approached and who does that, in case that information is needed when/if
      the employee leaves. This is true especially if the employee is a high-level
      executive. In that case, get a complete list of other stakeholders, for example,
      collaborators and suppliers.
    • Fiscal policies and procedures to ensure strong oversight of finances,
      including that financial numbers are correct and tracked accurately, and also
      that there are sufficient funds to pay near-term expenses.
    • At least annual discussions with key employees regarding succession planning,
      including how to manage effectively in the employee’s absence. (Be sensitive
      in raising this topic with the employee so that he or she is not overly concerned
      that executives somehow want a change now). This discussion can be an opportunity
      to hear about the employee’s career plans and desires, too.

    Additional Perspectives on Succession Planning

    Recommended Articles

    Form a business succession plan in seven steps
    Tomorrow’s Leaders Today – Succession Planning Grooms Firms for Success

    Succession Plan
    Succession Planning For Nonprofits: Building Leaderful Organizations
    The Strategy of Succession Planning
    Improving Leadership Transitions is Not Short-termism

    Additional Articles

    Place During CEO Transitions

    Family Businesses Bungle Succession Planning


    Choose Tomorrow s Leaders Today
    Stories: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    Succession Plan
    Planning: Is It a Staffing Matter? No

    Why Does Succession Planning Produce So Few Successors?
    How to Ensure Your Business Succeeds You
    Performance-Based Succession Planning
    What to Do When Employees Resign
    Succession Planning and Reflection- Who has the time?

    Also, consider
    to CEO

    Transition of Nonprofit Leaders

    Although the links in the above section do not mention nonprofits,
    their guidelines very likely apply to nonprofits, as well.

    Transitioning to New CEO (detailed procedure)
    Succession Planning for Nonprofits of All Sizes
    from Transition Guides

    Succession Planning: Elephant in the Room
    Planning: Is It a Staffing Matter? No

    Building Leaderful Organizations: Succession Planning for Nonprofits
    Leadership Development and Leadership Change

    Also, consider
    to CEO

    For the Category of Human Resources:

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