The 7 Principles for successful Succession Planning

#2 of 9 in our weekly succession planning blog post series:

Our guest blogger, Paul Riley is life-long learner of Organizational Leadership and Change who applies systems thinking and community development principles to help people work more effectively together within the complex human systems we create.

In my work, I've examined best practices among organizations that are known for succession planning, such as Boeing, Eli Lilly, Chase Manhattan, Southwest Airlines, and the U.S. Army, to name a few. After an extensive investigation, I came to the conclusion that there's no “best” way to manage succession. Although there's broad interest in defining processes and techniques for succession planning, there remains a considerable lack of consensus among the experts about how succession planning can be applied in a systematic, reliable, and consistent manner.

Because organizations have unique cultures and business contexts, which determine how talent is cultivated and nurtured, it's futile to prescribe one best method or strategy. So I’ve created a list of seven principles that can be applied to succession planning programs at any organization.

The principles are:

  1. Align Succession Planning Programs with the Organization’s Strategy
  2. Combine Succession Planning and Leadership Development
  3. Include All Levels of the Organization
  4. Create Opportunities for Practice, Feedback, and Reflection
  5. Promote Openness and Transparency
  6. Develop Simple, Flexible, and Decentralized Processes and Tools
  7. Continuously Monitor and Evaluate

The organizations that succeed at developing a sustainable leadership pipeline, approach succession planning as more than a process of updating a list. They prepare individuals for future roles, not just positions in the organization. Leaders must create long-term processes and programs for managing the talent pool across all levels, from the front line to the executive suite.  By investing time and resources to enhance organizational bench strength, organizations are able to address the realities of today’s complex business environment more nimbly and proactively.

Organizations often neglect succession planning due to lack of time and resources. We tend to focus on short-term results and managing the day-to-day operations, impacting our ability to engage in succession planning. However, neglecting to identify and develop successors can result in poor placement and promotion outcomes, which directly impacts productivity, motivation, engagement, and retention, because people are more likely to fail or leave if they are not properly prepared. Good talent management sets them up for success.

Want to know more about the Seven Principles of Succession Planning? Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, which will discuss the first principle – Align Succession Planning Programs with the Organization’s Strategy.

Be sure to check out our other Succession Planning blog post in this series:

What’s so important about Succession Planning?