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