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Training and Development Policy Wiki

Page History: Let's Talk About Succession Planning

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Page Revision: 7/5/2011 3:56:05 PM

Let's Talk About Succession Planning

What is Succession Planning & How Does It Impact My Agency?

OPM’s succession management plan is a fundamental component of our overall human capital planning and priorities.  It supports our workforce planning by providing direction for managing critical leadership development resources and helps ensure the best use of those resources to achieve organizational goals and objectives.  It also provides a mechanism for assuring continuity of leadership by creating a methodical process to identify leadership needs and develop plans to meet those needs.  The plan also supports the identification of highly talented individuals who have exceptional talent and performance and should be identified and advanced based on merit.  Our succession management plan supports overall employee development.  Employees are often hired knowing that they will require continued training to meet the needs of their jobs, and succession management helps justify the cost of training devoted to leadership development.

In our last completed study, during the spring of 2010 (2011 is under way) after an Agency reorganization, the Agency reviewed all leadership positions to determine their succession planning risk level. This was done by senior leadership and HR taking a fresh look at whom internally could fill leadership positions with a high likelihood of turnover; and if candidates did not exist, external pools had to be identified to fill the positions.  For example: were there candidates readily available at other Federal agencies, or could targeted recruitment efforts in the private/nonprofit sector be prosperous.  As a result of the analysis and research, all OPM’s leadership positions received either a moderate or low succession risk level—no positions are currently at a succession planning high risk level.

Problem:  Baby Boomers are retiring at record rates...which equates to a very high percentage of our Federal Leadership workforce.  So, the question is:  How do we keep the talent pool filled with innovative, creative, forward thinking and dynamic individuals given the current climate?

The Solution:  
A succession plan begins with a thorough understanding of the structure of functions the organization needs to reach strategic goals which includes agency mission.  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 the future of an agency/organization.  

With this fundamental premise, it becomes clearer that the purpose of a leadership development program is not just 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 effectiveness 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 which describe new sources executive management, and first-level supervisory incumbents could be useful.  Determining how these trends should and can be adjusted helps guide a strategy for succession management planning.  


The way in which positions are filled can also play a vital role in change management and culture transition.  If an organization's culture is described as stagnant, safe, and lacking creativity, 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, thriving and customer focused, then the strategic decision may be to promote from within.  Both recruiting and development strategies would be developed to compliment the desired organizational culture. 

First, 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. 

hird, recruit for individuals with the technical and management experience to move immediately into the leadership positions.

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.  T
hese concepts are are detailed in OPM'S informative manual written by OPM's Human Capital Assessment  team titled:  A Guide  To Strategic Leadership Succession Management Model located at: 


Tips & Tools:

Check out this link for Online Integrated Library for Succession Planning: Succession Planning. Or you may try this one from SHRM:

Please refer to the official U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
(5 U.S.C. 412.101

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