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Training and Development Policy Wiki

Page History: Succession Planning

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Page Revision: 3/2/2012 12:15:39 PM

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 priority.   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 to 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.

Problem:  Baby Boomers are and will be retiring at record rates which equates to a loss of a large 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 under these

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 ensure that that students graduate, but also to fill leadership positions.  Measures of success for a leadership program should not be limited to the 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.

STAY CURRENT: (What are other organizations doing in this area?) 

A leadership development program should 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.  

OPM's last completed Succession Planning Study (from 2010) reviewed all Leadership positions to determine their succession planning risk level.  This was done by senior leadership and the HR department taking a fresh look at who internally could fill leadership positions with a liklihood of turnover; and if candidates did not exist, external pools had to be identified to full the positions.  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. 


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 to consider 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 development of candidates ready to move into leadership positions.  Second, retain people in the leadership positions until candidates are considered ready to compete for those positions.  Third, recruit individuals with technical and management experience to move immediately into the leadership positions.  Fourth, reorganize functions and positions to meet the mission with the talent from the first three options. 


The Corporate Leadership Council developed a Workforce Planning Support Toolkit that agencies may find helpful in managing furture talent needs as well as addressing succession management plans

For additional information see:
Corporate Leadership Council Succession Planning.

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.  The 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: A Guide to the Strategic Leadership Succession Management Model.

Other resources on OPM's website include an outline of the Succession Planning Process and Effective Succession Strategies.


There are some very good resources available on the web that might be useful.  Check out the free Management Library for a plethora of information and tips on this topic including a succession planning toolkit: Succession Planning

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is also a great resource for succession planning  and other HR-related information. 

Please refer to the official U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
(5 U.S.C. 412.101
) for information about the regulations that address succession management.

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