I am often asked “where do I start in selecting a successor for my key management”? The process of choosing the right person can be time consuming as it requires a lot of thought and planning. Done right, it is truly worthwhile as not only have you voiced to your top talent that they are valued, but also a critical role is in process of being secured.
To get started, I would offer the following advice when it comes to Succession Planning: Start by setting out the process and communicating it with everyone who will be affected by your plan. Communicating this process and this transparency is central to achieving success as openness helps ease tension and uncertainty that key management may have. The timing of what is divulged and to who, is cornerstone in ensuring that the succession planning process is a positive one. Know that typically, successors do not know which position they are a successor for – this is very confidential. It is your Chief Talent Officer (for a company of our size this would be our Vice President of Human Resources :)) along with you that would help your successor fine tune their skills.
Next, establish measurable criteria for assessing the right candidate for each position that you have determined as “critical” and obtain appropriate input and advice from internal as well as external sources. Ensure that your candidate has leadership qualities and is groomed to rise to the occasion when required. Leadership requires knowledge, experience, good judgement, interpersonal skills and credibility. Their commitment to leading is for the benefit of all involved, not just for themselves. Remember that there is a big difference between “leadership” and “management” when looking for your successor. Leadership is focused on vision, strategy and moving forward while management is focused on the day-to-day tasks at hand that need to get done. As for my own succession plan (and possibly yours), not one person can do exactly the same as I (or you do), but the way I have structured my company is that my work can be done by different people. There is always at least one person on my management team involved in my tasks and/or projects, and together we have established grounded objectives and vision. Therefore, if for any reason, I could not work, or needed to take time off, all my projects would continue without interruption and our “team” vision would also continue.
Having said that, your primary goal is to find and groom the right candidate(s) while your ultimate goal is to have a structured succession planning process that easily allows you to update and make the necessary changes within your timeframe with little disruption to your business.
To do this, Succession Planning tools can make this time-consuming process easier. I have heard of companies using excel spreadsheets, whiteboards, binders “top-secret rooms” where profiles are moved strategically almost war-like… it is therefore easy to understand how time-consuming the process is when updating profiles manually. Having professional tools or software to support your succession planning will provide you with the necessary technical expertise to run effective meetings with current information, stay abreast of new technical developments and save you precious time. Making important decisions quickly and addressing tough issues in a positive, forward moving, constructive manner is key in improving your business. More importantly it will save you time when the day comes to putting a successor in place immediately.
In the end, the result of your effective succession planning will allow your business to work towards your ultimate objectives by maximizing profit, improving strategy, creating jobs, developing employees all whilst serving shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and the community. How powerful is that!