How to Do Succession Planning

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How to Do Successful Succession Planning

Additional Perspectives on Succession Planning

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(Before reading this topic, be sure to read the definitions and various steps in the staffing process to notice where this topic fits in the overall process.)

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

How to Do Successful Succession Planning

Guidelines to Successful Succession Planning

(Various other phrases are used to refer to aspects of succession planning, including succession management and transition management.)

Management is responsible to ensure that the organization continually has high-quality operations and employees. One of the most important practices to meet this responsibility is to conduct successful succession planning. Employees leave their jobs either on a planned or unplanned basis. Unplanned termination may occur because of sudden illnesses or death, or poor performance on the part of the employee. Planned termination usually occurs because the employee is making a career or life change.

Especially regarding managers in the workplace, demographic trends indicate that there are not sufficient numbers of next-generation leaders to replace retiring baby-boomers in organizations. Thus, succession management is an increasingly important priority. Consider the following advice.

Basic Principles of Successful Succession Planning

  • Do not wait until the employee will be leaving. Start planning now.
    Succession planning is a matter of strong practices in personnel management, not a matter of sudden crisis management. Start attending to those practices now.
  • Focus on policies, procedures and practices, not on personalities.
    Succession planning is being able to effectively and promptly re-fill a role, not replacing a certain person. Be sure all key positions are defined well, and then look to find the best person to fill the position. Do not look for someone who is just like, or a lot different than, the previous employee.
  • Succession planning is a responsibility of the management, not just the employee.
    The best succession planning results from 1) a working partnership between management and employees to accurately define the employee’s role and current priorities, and 2) the employee ensuring that management has the information and resources to refill the role.
  • Succession planning should be in accordance with up-to-date personnel policies.
    Hiring of new employees must be in accordance with up-to-date personnel policies to ensure fair, equitable and legally compliant employment practices.
  • Quality in managing succession is proportionate to the quality of the new employee.
    The best way for management to promptly convey expectations of high quality to a new employee is to convey that high-quality in how the employee was hired. The more thorough and careful that management does the succession, the more likely that the organization will get a new employee who successfully fills the position for the long-term.

Key Practices in Successful Succession of Managers

If the organization has already established strong practices in governance, leadership and management, then succession planning often is a matter of using current practices, rather than establishing many new ones. Key practices include having:

  • A strategic plan that clearly conveys the organization’s mission and current strategic priorities. Ideally, that plan also includes specific action plans that specify who is going to do what and by when in order to address each priority.
  • Up-to-date and management-approved personnel policies about hiring, supervising and firing personnel in a fair and equitable manner that complies with employment laws.
  • An up-to-date job description for each of the roles, and that explains the general duties and responsibilities of the positions.
  • Suitable compensation for the roles (often this is a major challenge for new organizations because they often have very limited resources).
  • An annual calendar of the role’s most important activities, for example, when the person in that role evaluates personnel, does any staffing analysis, updates job descriptions and participates in important committees.
  • Regular reports from the person in the role. These reports should include the trends, highlights and issues regarding the person’s activities.
  • Evaluation of the person on an annual basis, including in reference to the job description and any performance goals established for that role.
  • Arrangements with the person when he or she goes on vacation so that others have an opportunity to effectively replace the employee if only for a temporary period of time.
  • A complete list of major stakeholders – of people who have an interest in, or will be influenced by, the employee’s leaving and being replaced by someone else. Get a list, including contact information and also how each is approached and who does that, in case that information is needed when/if the employee leaves. This is true especially if the employee is a high-level executive. In that case, get a complete list of other stakeholders, for example, collaborators and suppliers.
  • Fiscal policies and procedures to ensure strong oversight of finances, including that financial numbers are correct and tracked accurately, and also that there are sufficient funds to pay near-term expenses.
  • At least annual discussions with key employees regarding succession planning, including how to manage effectively in the employee’s absence. (Be sensitive in raising this topic with the employee so that he or she is not overly concerned that executives somehow want a change now). This discussion can be an opportunity to hear about the employee’s career plans and desires, too.

Additional Perspectives on Succession Planning

Recommended Articles

Form a business succession plan in seven steps
Choose Tomorrow's Leaders Today - Succession Planning Grooms Firms for Success
Succession Plan
The Strategy of Succession Planning
Improving Leadership Transitions is Not Short-termism

Additional Articles

Business owner, business buyers, sell business, succession planning
Learning's Place During CEO Transitions
A Different Leadership Yardstick - EmergingLeader.com
When Family Businesses Bungle Succession Planning
Succession Planning
Succession Stories: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Planning for Succession
Heads in the Sand on Succession Planning
Succession Planning: Is It a Staffing Matter? No
Succession Planning -- Important Items to Consider
Why Does Succession Planning Produce So Few Successors?
What Directors Think: CEO Succession
Performance-Based Succession Planning
One in Five Companies Unprepared for Leaders Sudden Loss
What to Do When Employees Resign
Succession Planning and Reflection- Who has the time?

Also see
Transitioning to CEO

Transition of Nonprofit Leaders

Although the links in the above section do not mention nonprofits, their guidelines very likely apply to nonprofits, as well.

Leader to Leader: Fall 1997
Transitioning to New CEO (detailed procedure)
Leadership Transition in Nonprofit Management
Succession Planning for Nonprofits of All Sizes
resources from Transition Guides
Succession Planning: Elephant in the Room
10 Reasons Why Nonprofits & Associations Engage Professional Interim Executives
Succession SOS
Succession Planning: Is It a Staffing Matter? No
Building Leaderful Organizations: Succession Planning for Nonprofits
Stepping Up, Staying Engaged: Succession Planning and Executive Transition Management for Nonprofit Boards of Directors
Leadership Development and Leadership Change
Sample Emergency Succession Plan

Also see
Transitioning to CEO


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Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

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For-Profit

Leadership and Supervision in Business - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Includes step-by-step guidelines, tips and tools to effectively lead:
1. Yourself
2. Other individuals in the business
3. Groups and teams in the business
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5. As well as all functions within the business organization.

Many of the Library's materials about business, leadership and management are adapted from this book. Just click on the title of the book above to see the Index and Table of Contents.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book.



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Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff - Book Cover Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision With Nonprofit Staff
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Includes step-by-step guidelines, tips and tools customized for personnel in nonprofits to effectively lead:
1. Yourself
2. Other individuals in the nonprofit
3. Groups and teams in the nonprofit
4. Nonprofit organizations
5. As well as all functions within the nonprofit organization.

Many of the Library's materials about nonprofit leadership and management are adapted from this book. Just click on the title of the book above to see the Index and Table of Contents.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



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