How to Develop, Build and Execute An Effective Succession Plan - Part 2.
Previously, we discussed the guiding principles behind an effective succession planning model. As companies move from acknowledging these, to actually deploying the model, they need to build with seven key factors in mind.
When prioritized, these factors support a model that actually nurtures the leadership needs and competencies it is designed to build. The sequence of steps is addressed below.
- Formulating Organizational Strategy. Understanding the organization’s purpose, intent and the means by which it is going to execute, is priority. No leader – no matter their experience – will succeed when a company is unclear as to why it exists and what its focus will be. A succession planning model gets built to establish leadership with some end in mind. This end needs to be clear – and goal, mission and vision clarity become compass points at which the model is aimed. This direction informs everything in the model; from the type of participant, to the training and the timing. So until clarity is had, nothing else in the succession planning conversation matters.
- Defining Key Positions. With a clear understanding of the organization’s strategy, the leadership team will need to define the positions that will be fed by the succession management talent pool. Obviously, not every leadership position in the organization will require a succession plan, but the top 5 or 10 positions provide a good starting point.
- Clarifying Performance Metrics. Once the positions have been selected, the organization should identify competencies that will define success in the near to medium term. This step requires a review of the job requirements, current expectations and an evaluation of the anticipated future of the company, product or service lines and industry or competitive environment. From this, the organization should be able to develop position-specific performance metrics that will form the foundation of the succession plan.
- Evaluating Bench Strength. With key positions defined and performance metrics established, the next step is to evaluate current employees. This step will provide a benchmark from which to compare candidates over time. If candidates show little improvement, the model plans may require alteration. Moreover, by clarifying current bench strength, the organization will gain a better understanding of areas that will need to be addressed in future model iterations.
- Building the Succession Management Pool. Once the model is live, the succession management pool should be fed from a combination of nominations from supervisors, assessment results and performance data. Supervisors have the primary pulse on employees – they know who’s good and who’s not. They can help senior leaders select from among a potentially overwhelming list of potential candidates. But, nominations aren’t enough. The subjective views of nominating leadership need to be supplemented by equally weighted quantitative data. The ultimate question to be answered is: whether the candidate is likely to succeed, and therefore, worth the investment.
- Providing Professional Development. At this stage, individuals who are in the candidate pool should work closely with their supervisor to specify a development plan. This plan should focus on three to five goals that can realistically be accomplished within six to twelve months. The candidate and his/her supervisor should integrate the assessment results with the performance feedback to better understand development opportunities and strategies for addressing them.
- Introducing Promotions and Career-pathing. Candidates should have a clear career path. “Ready Now” candidates need to know that they are in line for a senior leadership position and that this transition will occur within a specified timeframe so long as they meet predefined performance metrics. Of course, these metrics should be communicated to candidates. It is essential for the organization to delineate succession opportunities in advance. This keeps promising talent inside the organization and motivates continued performance.
These factors are required for a mature succession planning model that delivers leaders ready for executive responsibility. While these factors are critical, their inclusion also does not guarantee success. A number of outstanding factors exist which may impact a model’s success.
Coming up next: Part 3 of the Future Leadership series where common succession planning model pitfalls will be discussed.
What do you think? Leave a comment, and make sure you check out the rest of our series on Succession Planning!