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“Succession” is developing to succeed

The HBR Management Tip of the Day today is from Marshall Goldsmith (author of What Got you Here Won’t Get You There — must reading) about succession planning – a hot topic in the information profession.  I’ve always referred to the need for succession “management”, but Goldsmith refers to succession “development”, & he’s right.  Managing an organization’s succession does have to be a whole process which must be managed, & the emphasis really is on people’s development to enable them to “succeed” in every sense of the word.

Here’s an inter-mingling of Goldsmith’s & our tips for succession development & management; much of our experience has been guided by Rothwell’s Effective Succession Planning.

1. Determine Future Requirements: Recognize that strategic planning, staff planning, & succession management are all inter-related & highly dependent; you can’t move forward (strategic plan) without the right capabilities, competencies (staff planning) & management (succession management). PLUS – how can you determine staffing & leadership needs Call it what it is: succession management or succession development – it doesn’t matter which, just don’t call it succession planning, since the focus shouldn’t be on the plan, it should be on how the organization is ensuring ongoing leadership, management, capabilities & success.

2. Commit: Senior management or the board must buy in to the overall process be supportive of it as on-going, not a one-time “here’s the slide deck” event.

3. Assess Current Requirements & Skills: As with anything, start with where you are – know what you have – a plan is all about moving from where you are to where you want to, or need to!, be.

4. Appraise Performance: Make sure people have agreed-to performance expectations & that they receive regular feedback about how they are doing to keep progressing.

5. Identify Potential: Now……here’s the kicker. Many organizations haven’t really defined what potential “is” — nor have they discussed career plans & perceived potential with employees.  If we want people to move into various positions, especially leadership positions (which, like it or not, is usually what succession management focuses on), then the organization has to be clear regarding how potential is assessed & that employees know this, and know what their current potential is assessed. Eww….. I’ve seen this be the trip-factor for senior management. But don’t let it be.  It’s a very valuable exercise for management.

6. Create & Implement the Development Program: Not just the training program – but a multi-faceted, realistic way in which people are going to be able to grow new skills, mindsets, approaches through experience — secondments? projects? “acting” positions?

7. Recruit, Hire, Place: Use the succession management and staff planning to go after the right kind of current & future talent that’s needed.

8. Evaluate: And know how you’re going to evaluate it when you start out — agree, at the start, on “what success will look like” for the succession management process, and then assess it to see what’s working & what, in the light of the strategic alignment needs to be tweaked.

9. Keep it simple & stay realistic: This is from Goldsmith – & he’s absolutely right.  Although the 8 steps outlined may seem daunting, they are pretty logical and basically simple.  And how else are you going to manage the management progression, keep & encourage talent, and ensure you have the right capabilities?

One last thing about succession management is, as I said above, it usually focuses on management positions.  Remember, though, that there are other non-management yet critical expert positions that need to be included; a gap in these positions is as crippling to your organization as any leadership role.

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