The Importance of Succession Planning

The resignation of Steve Jobs as the CEO of Apple has brought the subject of Succession Planning to the forefront of conversation. The importance of Succession Planning cannot be overemphasis as a key requirement that must be satisfied if organisations are to survive and prosper is that replacement leaders and officials must be available to assume critically important leadership and specialist positions as they become vacant. Many research studies have emphasised the importance of succession planning – primarily at the senior leadership level, but increasing across organisations as the scarcity of crucial skills and ensuring war for talent grows.

Chief Executives and Corporate Boards consistently point to succession as one of their biggest concerns, with a growing recognition that they have the same obligations to protect the human resource asset base for shareholders as they do to protect the balance sheet. This is particularly the case for professional services organisations whose value derives in great measure from the specialist skills and knowledge of their people.

Some of the most compelling reasons for any organisations leadership to seriously considering putting a succession planning process in place are:

  • The continuing survival and prosperity of the organisations depends on having the right professionals and leadership in place
  • Leaving leadership development to chance and hoping that qualified successors can be found either insider or outside of the organisation on short notice when needed may have worked at one time, but the war for talent in the present and future years makes the approach highly risky. There is therefore a need to systematically identify and prepare high-potential candidates for key positions.
  • Middle management is the traditional training ground for leaders. Because of the scarcity and subsequent competition for skills, there is a need for great care to be taken in identifying promising candidates early and to actively cultivate their development. There is otherwise the risk of losing individuals who are high performs in their present job and/or high potentials for future leadership positions.
  • When Succession Planning is left informal and thus unplanned, it can have a number of undesirable consequences. Suspicion about secret lists and shoulder tapping is highly demotivating and at odds with building a high performance culture. There is also the tendency under informal approaches for job incumbents to identify and groom successors in their own image with the potential for limiting the quality of the successor pool.
  • On the other hand, a robust and well understood succession planning program can be very motivating, and a powerful driver of a high performance culture. Such a program will signal to staff that the organisation is an environment where career goals can be mapped out and pursued and where learning and development is encouraged. In short, an environment where people are highly valued.

Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

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