Traditional succession planning often starts with a mandate from the CEO to develop a plan. The HR professional given the assignment often begins with his/her baseline of knowledge, usually supplemented with some benchmarking of other firms’ processes, and begins to set up the necessary meetings. Data is gathered in advance and forms prepared. Once all of the review meetings have taken place, the HR executive prepares the final succession plan complete with replacement charts, developmental plans for “high potentials,” and other similar outputs. After review with the CEO and, sometimes, the board of directors, the plan assumes its customary place on the shelf where it gathers dust until roughly the same time next year. If this sounds familiar, then read on.
Fortunately, there has been an extensive amount of research conducted on succession planning in recent years, and the collective experience of others can help organizations avoid the fate just described. Before embarking on a succession planning effort, consider the set of issues raised below.