Succession planning – have you thought about it?

Succession planning is a critical management tool whatever the size of your business because without it your organisation may not survive!

So what is succession planning? In simple terms….who is going to do your job when you are not there any more!  This does not mean that you are about to be made redundant or sacked but it is good business practice to consider who will do what you do if you are not here.

It may not be about developing people but you may be faced with a situations affected by external issues. Many organisations, for example, now have in their risk register & planning process what will happen if a group of key workers win the lottery.  This is because the likelihood is that the people will leave work, thus giving the organisation a great deal of problems to fill that gap, especially if they are all members of the same team.

The Harvard Business Review suggests that Succession planning should be called Succession Development as plans do not help people learn about the new job so, yes it should be about developing people who have the potential.This has to begin with regular performance reviews and frank discussions about peoples’ aspirations and capabilities.  It is no good if you have identified that George is the ideal candidate to succeed you, if George is quite happy in his current role and has no wish to be promoted.  An even worse scenario would be that you encourage George into thinking he can succeed you when it is clearly beyond his capability.

An even worse crime that you may commit as a line manager is not to consider this at all because you do not know where you are going or you are quite happy in your current role.  That does not stop you being responsible for developing your team, even if that means that they eventually will leave you and go and work elsewhere….that is a natural process.

So we as managers have to be clear about what qualities, competencies, skills & knowledge people should have to be able to carry out a specific role effectively.  It is then important to identify the gaps between what you require and what the person actually has and then develop that person in those areas.

The development can take many different forms and take much time to happen.  Remember it does not just mean ‘sending them on a course’ or getting an MBA or other such qualification, but it may mean the individual spending time with key people & departments in the business to gain a sound working knowledge of the whole business.  It is also good practice for the identified individual to have a mentor (not their line manager) so that their development can be guided effectively and a realistic time frame needs to be given.  Obviously there should then be regular reviews of the development process.

This is not a job that you as a line manager should be doing in isolation but in conjunction with your HR support as well as other line managers so that you can begin to develop a pool of people who have the potential for more senior positions in the business. Critical for you as line manager is your ability to coach and develop your people but also to recognise that for you to succeed your boss you have to work at your own development & knowledge gaps….so don’t forget to look after yourself as well!

Thanks for your time, Suzanne Unsworth

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