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Succession Planning and competencies

Succession Planning and competencies

Succession planning and competencies – mentoring and family requirements.

In the first article of this series, we looked at a number of questions which should be addressed by Senior Management. When implementing succession planning, answers to those questions establish a good foundation upon which to base our work. 

Questions from the first article.

What is succession planning? What positions in your organization should be included? When should we do succession planning? How much time should we spend on succession planning? How do you select candidates for higher positions?

This article will cover more questions.

What is the purpose of succession planning? It is to assure an ongoing flow of capable, experienced and well-grounded replacements for key positions throughout our company.

What kinds of things make formal succession planning urgent? 

Is Senior Management nearing retirement age? Is there unusual turnover in key positions? What is the average age of key personnel? Is it creeping upward? Are there already good candidates for those key positions? Are there openings for people with critical knowledge or backgrounds? Do younger people need to be groomed for higher levels of responsibility?

If your organization has any of these situations, you need a process that will provide key replacements. What will they need to learn to do higher level jobs? How will they gain the experience to perform well at higher levels?

Does the position require a mentor to acquire competencies?   

Often, the answer is “yes.”  Succession planning is a key activity for assuring the growth of competencies in your organization.  Mentoring is challenging for both the mentor and the mentee. The mentor has to be judicious in the process of educating and challenging the mentee. Guiding without spoon-feeding should be the mentor’s mantra. Learning to make good choices, based on facts and needs is always key. The purpose of mentoring is to help the candidate develop the hard and soft skills and judgment needed to perform the job well.

How to choose a mentor.

A mentor should have both professional and technical knowledge appropriate for the candidate’s needs. This is not an easy task. The mentor may or may not be the individual who has the position currently. There should be a good rapport between mentor and mentee, but not so close that it jeopardizes objectivity. The mentor should have a good grasp of what is required of the mentee and the new position. 

How long does it take?

There is no reasonable answer to this beyond, “Whatever it takes to become proficient.” Much of this depends on the experience, knowledge and capabilities of the individual candidate. Two different people will likely have different needs in order to become capable of doing the same job. That is no surprise, but something that emphasizes that succession planning is a hands-on undertaking. It will involve personalized assessment followed by training with varied experiences and development of different skills, depending on the background of the individual candidate.

Establish the competencies needed for each job.

A formal process for planning for succession of key personnel requires that you analyze each key position thoroughly. This is to establish the competencies a replacement needs to do the job. This may include education, hands-on experience, knowledge of other departments, technical skills, personal skills, etc. Job descriptions are helpful here, but may not include all the qualifications needed to allow effective performance. Every job is different in its requirements, so care must be taken when selecting the standards for that job. This is not the place for a cookie cutter job description. Be sure to recognize that often the most important success factors involve the soft skills.

Establish specific requirements for family members.

A candidate must earn a specific position.  This is especially true for family members. They should be held to the same high standard as anyone else. In a closely held company, family members should strongly consider working for a different company for a minimum of five years. The rationale is to have them have experiences and relationships where they do not have family presence and influence. They have to be able to stand on their own accomplishments and performance.

Family members should commit to joining the company by a certain age.

They also should have to commit to joining the family company by a certain age. A number of family companies have decided that family members must commit to the company by age 35. This gives the individual enough time to get the experience they need.  It also gives them time to decide whether joining the family company is the right thing to do. However, once they have turned down the opportunity to come with the family company, they should forfeit the right forever. The reason for this is to be sure the individual is totally invested in the success of the organization. What is not wanted is to have them think they will be getting a sinecure.

Family members should totally commit to doing the work and striving to make the company successful with full effort.

This article is the second in a series. More input in the next article. If you need guidance in setting up your succession planning as a part of your strategic planning, please let me know how I may help you. or 616-575-3193.

Do you have a succession plan?  Is it a part of your strategic planning?  Have you considered the connection between Succession Planning and competencies in your organization?  If you’re like most people, you’d benefit from having an experienced professional lead you through the strategic planning process, so you can focus on the content of your strategies.  If you’d like to explore how you could do this, please contact me at or 616-575-3193. Center for Simplified Strategic Planning professionals have successfully conducted thousands of strategic planning meetings, and have a great understanding of how to best use your planning time.  Consider holding a one-day workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning in the next few months to improve your results.

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Author Dana Baldwin

Author Dana Baldwin

Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached by email at

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