Succession planning has evolved over time. In the 'old days', I had a boss who looked around for someone smart (but not too smart) and accomplished (not too much), charming (no more charming than himself) and malleable. He then personally groomed them.
The effective implementation of a plan requires an understanding of the long-term company direction. A plan must be dynamic to match corporate and individual needs as they evolve. The succession plan should be revisited at least annually and as circumstances dictate.
A strategy needs to be in place, acknowledging that one size doesn't fit all. The plan should be proactive, with people moving into different areas for experience and training, rather than waiting for openings, and rushing to find someone in the last hour.
Different approaches may be used, depending on each company's situation. A company may need to move people along quickly, to expose them to a broad range of experiences and fill vacancies. In others, a deeper involvement in select business areas or disciplines may be more appropriate.
Running a business can be a dangerous occupation with many different types of risk. Some of these potential hazards can destroy a business, while others can cause serious damage that can be costly and time-consuming to repair. Succession planning is also about managing risk.
Having defined career paths helps the enterprise recruit and retain better people. More often than not, good succession planning will generate a continuous input of ideas to improve the internal processes and procedures of the company, as well as new ideas to improve the offerings and services of the company in the marketplace.
Good succession planning is not free of challenges. Globalisation has increased the diversity of workplaces, employees and business complexity has skyrocketed. In many cases, middle management has been eliminated so that grooming time is reduced, and the gap between one job and the next above it is much larger than before. And employees are much more likely to hop from one employer to another. These challenges are the very factors that make a solid succession plan more necessary than ever before.
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