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Succession Planning and Strategic Planning

Succession Planning and Strategic Planning

Although our principal thrust in Strategic Planning is how to better compete in our market segments, we also need to include succession planning.  Succession planning is key to your overall planning, because it helps assure you will have appropriate staffing in the future. Without people with the education, experience and training, you could have problems competing effectively.

What is succession planning?

Good succession planning should be a part of your overall strategic plan. It is aimed at providing the ability of the organization to function smoothly and consistently over time. Elements of succession planning include education, hands-on experience and exposure to other disciplines in the company. Ideally, you will plan before you need to replace an experienced staff member. Therefore, by planning ahead you have time to select the best candidate and to train them in their future role.

What positions should you include in your succession planning?

What positions should you include in your preparation for the potential move to a key position? The answer to this can vary quite a bit, depending on the specific needs of your company. Obviously, much of the concentration on succession is aimed at the executive and managerial levels. But in many operations, there are people in many different levels of the company whose position is key. As a part of succession planning, you should carefully analyze your current and future needs.  Include key technical people and sales people in this planning.  Be sure that in your company, you include all the key positions to assure effective continuity and ability to grow.

When should we do succession planning? 

Development of your succession plan should be a part of your annual strategic planning process. SP is aimed primarily at enhancing your ability to compete well in your markets. But your ability to continue supplying the products and services you provide is also key. Critical positions involved in delivering to your markets can be the difference between success and failure. One of the areas in SP includes the challenges of developing your human resources.  With this in mind, succession planning should become one of your significant competencies.  The actual succession mentoring and guidance as an output of your planning go on virtually all the time.

How much time should I spend on succession planning? 

If this is your first-time doing succession planning, expect to have extensive discussions about the subject. First, you need to lay out the reasons for doing this planning. Second, discuss which positions are key to the ongoing success of the organization.  As far as that goes, consider the overall philosophy of the company with regard to developing your people. This subject could rise to the level of a strategic issue because of its importance to your future success. Third, take enough time to explain and discuss why this is important to the entire company. Understanding the need for succession planning will help your team develop the right perspective when discussing the issue. Remember, however, that this discussion only sets the table for doing the actual succession plan.

Break the overall task into smaller, more focused groups.

Your executive team should analyze the future needs for all of your C-level staff. This could mean they examine the managerial level requirements as well, as some could be candidates for promotion. Managers should analyze key positions that report to them and pick those which are critical to company performance. Technical department managers need to select their key positions for inclusion in the analyses.

Determine what qualifications each key position needs.

Qualifications could include education, experience, product or service knowledge, interpersonal skills, communications skills and any company specific knowledge the position needs. Next, managers need to develop or verify job descriptions, if they already have them. They should include all the elements above to the extent that they are appropriate for their jobs. Its important that they don’t take this lightly as it could determine the future viability of the organization.

How do you select candidates for higher positions? 

Obviously, this is not an easy task. In some ways, it is very much like a process to consider a regular promotion.  The difference is that you are not promoting anyone at this time. You are considering the possibility that some people may become qualified for the higher position  when it becomes available. Here is where things get interesting. You may select one person to be considered for succession or more than one. At the onset, it must be clear that no promises are being made at the time. To help prepare them for the future, they need additional knowledge, experience and skills. You will judge each person on merit. Because each person will likely have different strengths and weaknesses, their development programs may well be different.  Furthermore, they will each have different needs which should be addressed.

When an opening is available, you will consider each candidate.

You will evaluate each candidate based on their cumulative experiences and skills. Ideally, you should assign a mentor to work with and guide each candidate. Often, candidates who go through this process are considered for more than one position as they improve their capabilities and knowledge.

This article is the first of a short series on Succession Planning. Please stay tuned for the next one in a few weeks.

Do you have a succession plan?  Is it a part of your strategic planning?  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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