Thoughts on Succession Planning

What are the needs of the current job going to be 5 years from now?

There are executives that shy away from even considering what will happen after they depart from their organization.

There are also many reasons some executives don’t want to address succession planning.

Some of these executives subconsciously don’t want to give up what they have and what they are doing, rationalizing their decision away by saying that what they do is so unique that no other person on the face of the earth is capable of doing what they do.

Someone I knew said their tombstone should read “He ensured the company’s demise.”

Other executives are “frozen” and not able to take a decision on who should run the company after their departure.

Some owners of family businesses have sons or daughters who may not have the work ethic, drive or interest, to run the business effectively.  With the objective of a family business being to retain the family wealth, I have often found it to be better to employ and independent outsider, or even to sell the family business, rather than to hand it to a less competent or disinterested person.  A less competent person also negatively affects the value of the business if it were to be sold.

Serious organizational politics can occur if two “princes” are left to duke it out because there was not a clear succession plan.

Essentially, people get promoted based on their performance in their current job.

Successful companies ensure that their people’s skills are developed both for the current and the future job.

Not preparing even a highly successful employee for the needs of the next job before that person assumes the responsibility of the new job is a disservice to everyone.

Irrespective of the size of the organization, whether it is a family business or a corporation, there are certain questions you need to ask before you take action on succession planning.

Firstly, decide what is that you want done in the job.  This is not as simple as it sounds.

With the rapidly changing world we live in, you have to change your thinking.  The question you should be asking is “What will the person need to be doing five years from now?”  The requirements of the job might be completely different from what it is now.

A frank discussion needs to be held with the incumbent to honestly determine strengths and weaknesses in order to determine what areas need attention.

  •  In what way will government and environmental changes affect the way the business will operate in future? These changes are going to come from outside the company but will affect the internal operations of the company. What needs to be done to prepare the future leader how to handle these future challenges?
  • Does the future boss need to know more about certain areas like finance, or marketing or negotiation?
  • How good is the future potential executive in terms of leadership, motivation and decision making. What management style is the incumbent using and is it appropriate?
  • Is there a case for mentorship?
  • If there is a need for training or development, who is going to do it and by when does it need to be done?

There might be a case to hire someone from outside.

Resist the temptation to only focus on the current job and to replace the existing person.

Once again, it is your task to consider what the needs of the current job will be several years from now and to then search for someone that may have those aptitudes or the potential to be able to handle those future challenges.

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