Succession Planning Is Planning To Succeed

Last year I wrote a blog titled “Seeking Irrelevance” about my major career goal, which is to become irrelevant. It was a bit tongue in cheek but no matter how important a person is to their business we will all become irrelevant someday.

Even if you don’t plan to go peacefully into retirement, you will, well, die. However you go, when you do your business will either go with you, struggle for years, or succeed. The first two are easy; success takes planning and it takes time.

Succession planning involves identifying and developing people who can grow into a company’s leadership. When we were developing our marketing strategy in the early years of Morrison, our team observed that most of our referrals came to me. I, they said, knew the CEOs, CFOs, VPs, board members, and others in positions to make decisions in companies so they naturally called me.

I acknowledged this but pointed out that that’s not what they were when I met them. Then they were in the cubicle next to me, volunteers with the same service organizations, members of the same professional organizations, and so on. In other words, they were people whose drive – and companies – allowed them to advance. And as Morrison has grown, more and more of our work comes through, and is done by, our team.

In its simplest form, succession planning is encouraging and allowing people to grow and take responsibility. This means letting go of things, and it means making sure other top executives let go. It also means allowing people to make mistakes; as I said in the “Irrelevance” blog, “Good judgment comes from experience – which comes from bad judgment.” It’s a risk, but the greater risk is to not grow successors.

Succession planning is more than “replacement planning,” or planning replacement for just key executives such as a CEO expecting to retire in a few years. Succession planning is a culture, a culture that not just allows but expects employees to grow and develop.

Research shows that clear objectives are needed for effective succession planning (Kesler 2002). These include:

· Identify those with the potential to assume greater responsibility. We would add that this should be part of a company’s hiring criteria for most positions

· Provide critical development experiences to those who can move into key roles. As I said, this includes expecting some mistakes

· Engage the leadership in supporting the development of high-potential leaders. Make it important for the company’s leadership to buy in

· Improve employee commitment and retention. For example, we have administered surveys designed to measure employee engagement, a solid indicator of commitment and retention

· Meet the career development expectations of current employees

· Mitigate the difficulty and costs of recruiting

We helped many companies with various aspects of succession planning. Let us know if can discuss your situation and the best approaches to suit your specific needs.

About the Author

+Brent Morrison is managing principal at Morrison, providing business valuations, business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, strategic planning), feasibility studies, interim executive CFO services, competitive grant writing, recruitment,and special projects that don't fit into any conventional category. You can contact Brent directly at bmorrison@morrisonco.net or via telephone at 530-893-4764 ext. 202.

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