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The Strategy of Succession Planning – Part Two

By M. Dana Baldwin

Strategic Planning Expert

Note:  This post is the first in a series of posts from Dana Baldwin’s article The Strategy of Succesion Planning originally posted in Compass Points in January 2000.  Part One introduced the topic and discussed the Succesion Planning Process.  Part Two will discuss Strategy for Succession Planning.

Strategy for Succession Planning

First, realize that one size doesn’t fit all. There are different approaches which may be used, depending on the situation in each company. In some cases, a company may have to move some people along quickly, in order to expose them to a broad range of experiences, and possibly to fill vacancies. In others, a deeper involvement in selected departments or disciplines may be indicated. Some of this will depend on the culture and processes of the company. In yet other cases, decisions about the process will depend on the individual’s capabilities and competencies, and the structure and operations of the company. In virtually all situations, your ability to educate and promote will depend on the capabilities and strengths of the people who currently occupy the key positions, and where they will be going in the future – what are they being groomed for?

It may not be vital to have a succession plan for every position in the company, but certainly there are some key areas of responsibility which must be considered. These will vary by company and industry, but as a part of your Simplified Strategic Planning process, one important strategic issue should be the need for succession planning for certain, defined key positions. This issue should be revisited at least once a year, and more often if circumstances dictate.

Advantages of Succession Planning

  • An ongoing supply of well trained, broadly experienced, well-motivated people who are ready and able to step into key positions as needed.
  • A cadre of desirable candidates who are being integrated into the company with positive goals established for them individually.
  • A flow of these capable people through various departments with the goals of educating them into the culture and processes of the company.
  • Availability of appropriate resources within the company to conform with the future needs of the company.
  • Positive goals for key personnel, which will help keep them with the company and will help assure the continuing supply of capable successors for each of the important positions included in the succession plan.
  • Defined career paths, which will help the company recruit and retain better people.
  • Very likely, the continuous input of ideas to improve the internal processes and procedures of the company, as well as the opportunities to improve the offerings and services of the company in the marketplace.

Recognize that all companies do not have to follow the same path either in the overall situation or even for each individual. Each situation should be analyzed and optimized in terms of the company’s needs and the individual’s needs. In addition, there should be enough time allowed to groom the successors. They should not be expected to learn the jobs/responsibilities overnight. Time is the gift that good planning can bestow on the process. Also, the successor and potential back-ups should be designated early in the process. Not only will this help the individuals involved, it will clarify the communication and help eliminate disappointment and possible departures of key candidates if they become disillusioned because they have not been informed they are being groomed for higher positions or if they feel they are not moving upward rapidly enough.

The next post in this series will cover Succession Planning Pitfalls and Succession Planning Benefits.

What key possitions do you think you need a succession plan for?  Attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar for more instruction on how to develop achievable targets as well as all other aspects of Simplified Strategic Planning.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

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