Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing new leaders to succeed current leaders. While organisations realise that succession planning is an important priority, few manage to execute it well.

Why succession planning matters and why it’s hard

The potential gains from succession planning go far beyond the obvious result of having a steady pipeline of leaders ready to step into new roles:

  • A more-diverse portfolio of leaders
  • Better decisions around promotion and investing in coaching and development
  • Enhanced career development opportunities for emerging leaders meaning greater engagement and retention of top talent
  • A stronger organisational culture due to an enhanced ability to advance leaders who live and breathe the company’s mission statement
  • A “future-proofed” workforce that is better prepared to thrive in different economies and conditions
  • Greater organisational stability and resilience which breeds market confidence and drives value.

We have compiled four practical ideas on how you can get more impact from your company’s succession planning efforts:

1. Change the name of the process from Succession Planning to Succession Development

Plans do not develop anyone! More companies put too much effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process. Succession planning processes can have lots of ‘to-do’s; such as forms, charts, meetings, due dates and checklists. They can create a false sense that the planning process is an end in itself rather than to real development. The focus should be on succession development, not the planning.

2. Measure outcomes, not process

This is important for several reasons. Firstly, managers pay attention to what gets measured and what gets rewarded. If leadership development is not enough of a priority for the company to establish goals and track progress against those goals, it will be difficult to make any succession planning process work. And secondly, engaging with senior managers to establish these goals will build support for succession planning and ownership for leadership development.

3. Keep it simple

Sometimes companies will implement complex assessment criteria to the succession planning process in an effort to improve the quality of the assessment. Since the planning process is only a prefix to the development, it doesn’t need to be perfect. More sophisticated assessments should be built into the development process and administered by a competent coaching company.

4. Stay realistic

While development plans and succession charts aren’t set in stone, they can often be communicated as such and this can lead to frustration. Only give the promise of succession if there is a realistic chance of it happening!

At JPD we believe these four suggestions above can help shift your company’s focus from planning to development. We are here to help with all your coaching needs to turn managers into emerging leaders.

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