“One of the things we often miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens.”
Anne M. Mulcahy
Let’s face it: succession planning isn’t fun. Profit-sharing is fun.
But you have very little chance of enjoying the latter over the long run if you don’t pay attention to the former. We are not invincible. And no one is indispensable. So, let’s get over it and start to plan for the inevitable – before the time comes. We owe it to our leaders and teams to consistently answer the question: “Who’s the Next You?”
In a recent edition of the Harvard Business Review, Whitney Johnson made the observation that most succession planning, if done at all, is usually incomplete. The author describes the challenge this way:
“In addition to thinking about “who next for the organization?” great managers are always considering “what next for the individual?” Doing this well involves who might move on and when, identifying team members who might assume this role, and then thinking about those who could backfill that role.”
“The S Curve as a Management Tool” by Whitney Johnson in the Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2022), p.108.
How to make the succession model complete, then?
- First, establish the importance of succession planning. Build it into your strategic plan, and track progress with a quarterly scorecard.
- Next, the senior leadership sets the example by setting up their plans and then publishing them to the next two levels down in the organization.
- Third, always identify not only the next up but also who fills the vacancy left by the promotion – the backfill Johnson describes.
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