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September 28, 2016 Article 3 min read
Who will comprise your leadership team in five years? 10? Succession planning is key to organizational excellence, and these best practices ensure seamless transitions.

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According to a survey of nearly 1,100 companies conducted by the American Management Association, only about eight percent have what would be considered a “comprehensive development program” that’s part of their business plans; 25 percent have completed no succession planning at all.

Best-in-class organizations emphasize succession planning as a continuous process, not a one-time event.

How about you? Do you know who will comprise your leadership team in five years? 10 years? And how will you find qualified people to run your organization? To prepare your organization for seamless leadership transitions, we suggest developing succession plans for key roles. By exploring some common myths and best practices of succession planning, your organization will be better positioned to overcome current and future leadership challenges.

  • Myth 1: Succession planning only focuses on one position
    Successful organizations recognize that leadership is needed at all levels, not just in the C-suite. They work toward building a talent pipeline of future leaders. Focusing on only one position creates the image of CEO as hero or heroine, which negates the importance of a team of leaders driving the success of an organization.

    Identifying emerging leaders and multiple successor candidates for key roles is an important step in building a talent pipeline. Creating individual development plans for these leaders offers the potential to: a) increase their level of engagement and commitment to your organization and b) leverage strengths and target specific skills needed to be successful at the next level.
  • Myth 2: Succession planning ends when a successor is named
    Many succession planning committees feel that their work is completed once a successor is named. Strategic succession plans include assimilation or transition planning to support the success of the new leader. Failure to provide such transition support creates a “sink or swim” mentality, increasing the risk of failure.

    We suggest creating transition plans for all leaders moving into new roles. Proactively including supervisors and key stakeholders in the creation and review of these transition plans provides valuable feedback and encourages ongoing dialogue related to key success factors. This dialogue allows for making adjustments to the plan as needed.
  • Myth 3: Succession planning is a one-time event
    Best-in-class organizations emphasize succession planning as a continuous process, not a one-time event. Event-driven succession plans often result in a reactionary or crisis management approach. Facilitating talent roundtables, where senior leaders discuss top talent in their organization or business unit at regular intervals, creates the opportunity for multiple stakeholders to provide input related to the development of emerging talent. Adopting this type of proactive approach promotes discussion that better prepares organizations for seamless transitions by creating alignment of important success factors for key roles and a comprehensive discussion of top talent.
  • Myth 4: Succession planning occurs in a vacuum
    Succession planning decisions are often made by a select group of individuals behind closed doors. Such groups may fall prey to “group think,” failing to consider critical success factors because the participants overvalue consensus. Key stakeholder opinions may be ignored, which results in decisions that fail to consider dynamic marketplace changes or the need for new leadership behaviors required for the organization to thrive in the future.

    One best practice is to develop multiple successors for key positions. Becoming more inclusive in gathering input from a broader range of stakeholders creates a more diverse candidate pool beyond the usual suspects.

Succession planning is a key to organizational excellence Don’t wait until you need to fill a leadership position before thinking about the right candidate. Create a leadership success profile, establish a succession planning process, and develop a transition plan to ensure that new leaders are successful. Succession planning creates tomorrow’s leaders today.