Monday, 1 November 2010

Succession Planning - Thinking Ahead

I have been talking with a number of clients over the last few weeks on the subject of succession planning. It's the art of making sure that you know what you will do as positions become free in your organisation - and the actions you will take to make sure that the right people are ready in the right place with the right skills to do the job. Simple!

I'm no longer surprised at the number of people I speak with who are not making plans for the future - whether that it succession planning, strategic planning or anything. Working mostly with law firms and now schools, I regularly hear "Oh I'm far too busy to have time to deal with all that". Sadly I don't think you have time not to.

Worryingly, some other bloggers seem to have what I think are slightly relaxed ideas about this too. I was reading "What Makes a Great Managing Partner" on the Adam Smith Esq blog and found myself muttering in disagreement from time to time. The blog argues that having a formal succession plan cand invite "jockying for position, ...concomitant gossip, innuendo and navel-gaxing, and distractions for the incumbent...". The blog goes on to suggest that without a formal succession plan you invite "chaos...when the Managing Partner does step down, intergenerational conflicts and a divided electorate".

All of this is, of course, possible - but only if you try to put a succession plan in place in isolation. If it is executed as part of a strategic plan and if the succession plan is talked about, and if everyone in the firm has a proper development plan, then there should be few problems - and certainly many fewer than by not having a plan in place at all.

To be fair, I think that 'Adam Smith' and I mean the same. His final paragraph (in that section) says "Don't put a formal process in place..." but then describes what I would think of as one type of formal succession plan.

Perhaps I'm just not that formal a person.

The point is that you must think about the future - your firm or school will depend on it. Think about where you want your organisation to be, have a plan, think about the succession and develop your people to the point that they can do the jobs you need them to do. Yes - you will develop some of your best people out of the door as they are headhunted into bigger (and better?) places. This is, however, a good thing. You gain a network of people you have helped into positions of success, your current staff see that you want to help them, and you will have the right people when you need them.

Succession planning really is one of those few "win/win" situations.

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