Page Revision: 2/25/2011 1:24:46 PM
Succession Planning Is Not About People; It Is About Positions
This is slightly tongue-in-cheek. Of course, succession planning involes people. However, the message needs to be clear. A succession plan begins with a thorough understanding of the structure of functions the organization needs to reach strategic goals. Positions that fill the organizational design can then be determined. Once the positions are clarified, then the determination about critical positions can be assessed. Important to this concept is that strategic succession planning is not about talents the organization needs now; rather, it is projecting the talent, knowledge, skills and competencies needed for a future organization.
With this fundamental premise, it becomes clearer that the purpose of a leadership development program is not to graduate people but to fill leadership positions. Measures of success for a leadership program should not be limited to number of graduates, enthusiasm of participants, or even the learning level of participants. The reason for sustaining leadership development is to put highly qualified people into critical positions. The measure of effectivemess is how many leadership positions are filled due to the organization's leadership development strategy. The target does not, necessarily, need to be 100 percent of positions filled by program graduates. A leadership development program would be included in the broader strategy to fill critical positions. Leadership development projected output needs to work in concert with recruitment planning for filling different levels of leadership positions. Looking at trends to describe sources of new executive, management, and first-level supervisory incumbents will be useful. Determining how these trends should and can be adjusted helps articulate a strategy for succession management.
How postions are filled can also play a vital role in change management and culture transition. If an organization's culture is described as stagnant, safe, unimaginative, a strategic decision may be to fill more leadership roles from outside the organization rather than from inside progression. If an organization's leadership is perceived to be highly effective, motivational and customer focused, then the strategic decision may be to promote from within. Both recruiting and development strategies would be articulated to compliment the desired organizational culture.
The availability of leadership talent will also be reflected in the strategic succession plan. If a determination is made that a functional pool of candidates for supervisory or management positions is shallow, there are 4 elements to consider:
accelerate the development of candidates ready to move into leadership positions.
Second, retain people in the leadership positions until candidates are considered ready to compete for the positions.
Third, recruit for individuals with the technical and management experience to move immediately into the leadership positions.
Fourth, reorganize the functions and positions to meet the mission with the talent from the first three options.
If it is projected that there is insufficient availability of talent to fill all the positions needed to meet the mission, and the mission will not change, then, reorganizing positions may be needed. Span of control and number of reporting levels may need to be adjusted to meet the mission with available leadership talent.
These concepts are contained in the Guide to Strategic Leadership Succession Management Model located at:
Please refer to the official U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (5 U.S.C. 412.101)