Thursday, September 10, 2009


Great firms and entrepreneurs always plan for the future of their businesses today. There is one popular Ibo saying that says, “Nothing stays forever”. Check out all the successful businesses in the world today, the secret of their success stories will not be far from good leadership and governance. The question then is what happens to these businesses when these good leaders are no more? The truth is that one day, somehow they will leave these businesses. That very agile and hardworking Director today will someday grow old, weak and retire. On the other hand, death they say is a necessary and an inevitable end, which must come when it must. We are also faced with that same question, “what happens to these companies when these good, vibrant, successful and hardworking Directors, Managers, Supervisors and Officers are no more active or in the system? This brings us to issue of Succession Planning. I have said it before in one of my blogs that he who fails to plan is planning to fail.

Succession planning can be defined in many ways, but they all boil down to making the necessary preparations and dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s towards who steps into a given position in a company at any future time. In a more professional approach, Succession planning can be seen as the process of preparing in advance to hand over power, authority, responsibilities and control in a professional manner without disrupting the operations, values, culture and goals of the organization.

It is always advisable to have succession plans written and documented in advance so that at any future time it will not be a Herculean task to have somebody succeeding another if the need arises. Succession plans should not be made available to all staff to avoid people pushing their ways through to a given position.

The ugly truth is that most businesses in the world today do not have formal and written succession plans. This normally causes problems when there is need for replacement of an exiting Officer.

In most cases succession planning is more difficult in one-man businesses. Succession plans should be of paramount importance to family businesses because of the informal ways such businesses are carried out. Assuming the sole owner of a vibrant business is retiring, the question is what happens to the business when he retires? Does he have grown up children who can manage the business? If yes, which of them will hold which position? What if the youngest of them all has the best experience and most hardworking of the children? On the other hand, does he want to sell the business? Well all these questions will be taken care of through a very thorough succession plan. Even if the sole owner dies without informing his family about this plan, the company lawyer can still implement this plan when he is no more. Succession plan is even of high importance in a one-man business because of the family attachment and emotions involved. Most one-man businesses die with the sudden death of their owners because of non-existence of a formal succession plan. There is no doubt that succession plans give way to smooth transition programs.

In case of a sole proprietorship, the plan takes care of who takes up which Management position, who inherits what share of the business and so on. The owner may decide to hand over the Management to his last child if he shows the best trait of leadership and have all his children share equally in the shares of the business.

In public firms, succession planning helps the firm to identify talented staff and develop them for future higher responsibilities through trainings and development especially when they show leadership traits. The plan ensures you can fill the key roles of your organization within the talents you have in the organization.

In other words, we can say that succession plan entails choosing tomorrows leaders today. Due to changes in technology and advancements in global strategies, there is the need to identify future managers who can meet up with such challenges.

This is also true for small firms as well as large ones. It's not just succession to the top positions. It's about getting the right person in place for every job. It may happen that some of tomorrow's key jobs may not even exist now. If a firm plans to double in size and business line say in the next five or ten years, they will need more talented managers to take over during the growth period.

Succession plan involves leadership development. The only way to attract and keep good staff is to have a good career plan that has good succession plan in place, which will make them not to look elsewhere.

It is very important for firms to see succession plan as a very important organizational growth strategy. It is always a job that is carried out by the Human Resources department in conjunction with the Directors, CEO’s and Management team as the case may be depending on the type and size of the firm.

When there is a formal succession plan in place, it builds confidence in employees and reduces incessant employee turnover as what they are looking for elsewhere is already in the organization they are working for.

Like earlier said, Succession planning is the job of top executives in conjunction with the HR department and some times, some consultants are engaged to contribute in the decision. It is supposed to be updated periodically because an employee who is found eligible today may not be in the next few months or years. We can also notice a situation where those eligible staff who have been drafted to take over certain positions in the future leaving the company before that time.

From the foregoing, we can conveniently say that Succession planning involves identifying and monitoring the pool of talent in the organization and matching them with the future needs.

In succession planning, those who are always considered fit to be in the system are always decided through their inbuilt talents, competencies (both hidden and clear cut competencies), their leadership traits, their exposure to new technologies and innovations, the ability to develop themselves (educationally, training wise etc), their inbuilt potentials, ability to lean new things and to adapt to changes etc.

While planning for succession, gender, tribe ,age or number of years put in the organization should never be a yardstick for decision making.

In a nutshell, Succession planning should be carried out systematically for a good result following the steps below;

Deploy a succession management process.Make it a corporate issue in the organization that will be linked with the general organizational goals and objectives.

Human resources department should be responsible for the tools and processes associated with successful succession planning and should liaise and work hand in hand with the line managers for best results.

Identify your talent pool and discover the future leaders. (Note that this should be a continuous exercise).

Start focusing on the identified future leaders.

Engage the identified future leaders with greater responsibilities than they had before.

Keep an eye on them to match their results with the assignments given to them.

Always find out what they have flair for and try to align their responsibilities in that direction.

Train and develop where necessary for better results.

Monitor and assess performance and make your decision.

The truth is that most companies today do not have any succession plan. That is really a wrong approach to business, especially for those businesses that want to grow and stand the test of time. Today is the right time to start. Start planning today to avoid future organizational wreck.

See you next time.

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