How Good Is Your Succession Planning?

Many organisations talk about succession planning , a large majority simply work to an annual appraisal with added ‘widgets’.


Below we provide a best practice guide to real succession planning:

  1. Effective succession planning cannot operate in a people development vacuum. Make sure you have effective performance management and appraisals, people development plans and effective feedback loops.
  2. You will also need coherent transparency around role classification practices; including job descriptions, competency profiles aligned to grading, pay scales etc.
  3. The previous two points create an succession planning platform on which to build career structures. The old metaphor of career ladders we believe now doesn’t apply. A ladder implies linear progression, hopefully upwards. Careers aren’t like that anymore, they are more like crazy paved mazes going sideways, often moving in a discontinuous fashion.
  4. Good succession planning reflects this, not developing people for fixed, hierarchically determined roles, but developing capabilities and experience to meet strategic requirements.
  5. Coaching cultures are better at succession planning than didactic, command and control ones because there is an open, learning relationship between boss and subordinate. This facilitates higher quality conversations about the future peoples’ real ambitions.
  6. A clear transparent taxonomy needs to be created that, as neutrally as possible, positions people not relative to each other but in relation to the required (high) standard. Someone who is labelled as ‘one to watch’ needs to really understand what that means, what they did to earn that label and what they have to do to keep it. The same needs to apply in the opposite way to someone who didn’t achieve the distinction.
  7. Remember the first thing someone will want to do on acquiring an succession planning classification is seek affirmation through relative comparison. Who else has the same label? Who has achieved a better/worse label? For the process to have credibility and ‘bite’ it has to really mean something. If there is little or no differentiation, if ‘face fitting’ or experience moves you faster, if there is any form of inappropriate discrimination then succession planning will be viewed with contempt. It can’t please everyone, but it can be seen to have integrity and be fair minded.
  8. Make it a closed loop feedback system. People need regular progress updates to stay informed. People need to know they are off track as much as on track.
  9. Set clear objectives linked to a clear milestone plan

Why Are Some Organisations Still Struggling With CRM Adoption?

Given database ubiquity and technology literacy you would think sales organisations are now fully up to speed with their CRM. Below we give the most common reasons why some sales organisations are still behind the curve.

  1. History: Under previous management decisions were made that have either been difficult to unwind or have taken the organisation down a blind alley.
  2. Legacy systems: This can be to do with point 1 although there are still businesses in autumn 2010 that are still making legacy based decisions that will give them problems of functionality and scalability in the near future.
  3. Cost: Might be connected to the previous point, but sometimes simply driven by a lack of understanding in the profound and structural change technology is having on the customer/sales interface.
  4. Make not buy: Do not build your own unique thing. It is unsustainable and too expensive to change. Those that have are now scratching their heads.
  5. Previous bad choices: Selecting something that didn’t work very well that has killed the small amount of motivation and goodwill that was there beforehand.
  6. Salespeople are highly adaptive: In the absence of anything they will create something. Their own database, spreadsheet or diary system. At the single user level these can be quite sophisticated. They don’t want to give them up, they complain bitterly about how the new system isn’t as good as their own.
  7. Ignoring the holy trinity of field force technology adoption:
    – Connectivity first. People have to be able to log on easily, quickly and from anywhere.
    – Reliability second. The connection has to be robust, reasonably fast and always on.
    – Functionality third. It has to do what is says on the tin.
    It doesn’t matter how good it is in theory. If people can’t use it or stay on it without any effort they simply won’t use it.
  8. The CRM has to align with the sales process and workflow: Single entry inputting, real time, single view of the customer, and data integrity. All critical not optional requirements.
  9. Proper training with follow up coaching supported by the right hardware.
  10. Mandatory usage requirement: No double running systems, opt outs or discretion. Negative consequences for those that don’t align with the new ways of working.


Note: This isn’t a ‘majority will do’ list. All need to be present for take up to work.

We Are At A Personal Technology Inflection Point – The Future Has Arrived (Again)

We have arrived at something of a Strategic Inflection Point. The internet now delivers sufficient bandwidth and ease of access to provide the web content we really want. Netflix, the US film rental business, has just announced it is now a film streaming business. It’s already responsible for 26% of used bandwidth in the US. And now Internet TV is about to explode with Sony launching Google TV before Christmas.


We are now encouraged to have only ‘immersive experiences’ through 3D TV and full body gaming led by the Wii, now being taken forward by Microsoft and Sony with their own Xbox and PS3 versions.

Facebook growth shows its commercial potential is several years ahead of where Google was at the same time in its journey, suggesting Facebook could be bigger than Google. We have only just begun to understand what Mr Zuckerberg plans to do with all our personal data.
LinkedIn has become the business network for many organisations and individuals. Some people use it as their primary career move tool.

Generation Y adults, those who can’t remember a pre-Internet world, are using communication in new ways, younger members now viewing email as the ‘old persons’ preferred choice. They would rather not eat than lose connectivity.

The old ‘dead trees’ print media has realised it has got to be more creative than just replicate its newspapers on-line. Murdoch is trying to sell premium content behind a pay wall, early evidence is not encouraging. The Guardian is committed to providing free access to a much wider and deeper resource than the newspaper, which is increasingly looking like a daily printed digest of yesterday’s best stuff. The Daily Mail web site is going gangbusters since it morphed into a celebrity gossip column with lots of papped pics.

Three very different positioning models, all searching for the post printed future
At the other end of the scale McKinsey, the strategy consultancy, announced last week they are scrapping premium membership of their Quarterly print book, replacing it with a simple registration model. They believe getting their ‘intellectual capital out there’ is more important than protecting a relatively small revenue stream.

Amazon announces the Kindle e-reader is their biggest selling product with analysts predicting it making more than a $1.5bn contribution next year. Bet your house the McKinsey Quarterly will be purchasable on Kindle.


The other obvious ‘A’ listed organisation shaking things up is Apple. Through inventing whole new device categories and reinventing others, they have become more valuable than Microsoft. They brilliantly connect with our unarticulated needs, tapping into brand new revenue streams.

This brings us to the mobile phone. Smart phones are taking the world by storm, following exactly the same adoption pattern as the phone itself, which started as a converted business tool, twenty years later being more ubiquitous than any other electronic device. Smart phones will be the same. Small powerful computers, with location based services, linked in real time to several personal networks, used for communication, (voice, visual and written), entertainment, payments and access control.

The business opportunities are significant; however the chance of your business model being ripped away from you is also significant!

4 Steps to Better Role Plays

Are role-plays still a valid part of the learning process?

The dreaded role-play! When most people find out that they’re required to do a role-play as part of a training course they groan ‘oh no, do we have to?’ especially when it’s in front of their peers. Most would willingly trade the role-play for a five thousand word essay which is arguably more arduous and less beneficial. Why does the thought of doing a role-play have this effect?


  1. They’re artificial – not like real life, so you don’t behave the same way and don’t give a true account of yourself
  2. The high probability that you will make a mistake under pressure and look foolish or incompetent in front of your colleagues
  3. The embarrassment of being put ‘on the spot’ and not knowing how to respond or ‘freezing’ at the crucial moment
  4. Knowing that you are going to get ‘feedback’ which will inevitably include some criticism or areas that ‘require improvement’

Having been on both sides of innumerable role-plays over the last 25 years – we know they can play a vital part in the learning process. We get surprising feedback ourselves from people who, afterwards say that the role-play was the highlight of the session and the section from which they learnt the most important lessons about themselves.

So how do we ensure that use of role-play has maximum benefit for the participant with minimum cringe factor?


Make them Realistic – do research on the background and context for the role-play; include appropriate technical details, style of language and genuine issues.

Make them Relevant – take examples of activities the participant will face in their job role – and get their input on the context e.g. Handling Complaints, Conducting Performance Reviews, Dealing With Objections, Making Presentations, Selection Interviews etc.

Make them Safe – talk about the methodology you are going to use, and that they can stop, rewind, and try again at any stage, it’s a chance to learn from their mistakes; after all, it’s better to make mistakes amongst your peers than in front of your customers.

Make them Structured – provide a framework with some kind of rationale or logic to the order of events and enough flexibility to adapt to the individual; and explain the criteria for the feedback and how it is designed to help.

Role-plays can be challenging, thought-provoking and fun ways to draw out and develop participants’ interpersonal skills.