Change Implementation Techniques for Forming Transitional Team, Creating Alignment, Maximizing Connectedness and Creativity

Technique 7.7 Some Comments on Developing a Succession Plan

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Some issues to keep in mind when planning and implementing a succession plan

Who to look for

"...first thing you do when you are looking for a successor is, don't look for someone like you......the other thing is, you'd better look to the environment ahead......and get someone who's gonna be attuned to that environment, not the environment in which you lived..."

Reg Jones as quoted by Fortune, 2005

Jones was referring to his selection of Jack Welch as the new CEO of GE in 1980.

Remember: Jack Welch's name was not on the original list of potential replacements for Reg Jones as CEO of GE. Jack Welch was regarded as

"...too young, too impatient, too reckless. He stammered......in their urbane world, Welch was the odd man out..."

Fortune 2005

1. Weave successor development into the organization's mindset

- this means integrating performance evaluation, development, feedback, coaching, mentoring and succession planning so that succession planning becomes a shared responsibility instead of a mandate from corporate headquarters

2. Start identifying and developing successors right away

- this can include delegating part of your job to potential successors on a trial basis by

i) allowing them to cover for you while you are away on holidays or out of the office

ii) giving them greater accountability with a larger role in decision-making

- by observing how they perform, you are able to judge their relative strengths and spot areas that need more focused attention

- most successful transition plans are gradual processes, ie gradually work your way out of the job until you have no more responsibilities

- do not be in a hurry to find someone just because you are ready to leave. You should hang on until you find the right person and give that person a minimum 2 months transition period

- sometimes in the transition, staff can be confused as to who is in charge

3. Prepare your organization

- let all stakeholders know about the transition, ie spend time with each stakeholder. Explain why the changes are happening, why you are confident in your successor's ability, how the transition will occur and what is in it for the stakeholder. Acknowledging major differences in style, approach, etc has benefits.

4. Give successors all the information they need

- do not assume that your successor understands your role. Remember that your successor needs different types of information, ie facts, background, insights and advice about people and processes. Start with the basics, ie clarify the responsibilities and expertise required to handle the position. Explain what has worked for you, where you have struggled, and what you would do next or differently.

- focus on the relationship aspects of the job. Describe the key people that your successor will need to work with, and explain how you have interacted with them in the past. Provide insights into individual preferences, styles, agendas, expectations and communication. This includes the "behind-the-scenes machinations of the job"

- review the tactical elements of the job, ie tasks to carry out, the processes to follow, and available techniques and resources. It can help if these are documented and up-to-date.

- there is a lot of information to convey in a short timeframe, and this is where people's learning style can be important. Remember: most people learn by doing. Different delivery methods such as self-paced reading, interactive question-and-answer sessions and shadowing, (ie let your successor follow you around on your daily activities) can be useful, but avoid the straight lecture format.

5. Work with your successor to set goals

- focus on goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and targeted). Go for some short-term, visible results

- remember that internal promotion creates a domino effect so people further down the organization should be grooming their successors

6. Let go, but keep the door open for awhile

- this can be the most challenging aspect of succession planning as it calls for handing over something that you have owned

- allow your successor to take increased responsibility for idea generation and critical decision-making.

- allow for tactile knowledge transfer

- act like a colleague rather than a boss

- after your departure, you still should be available to help your successor upon their request, ie stay in touch (occasional lunch, phone call, Email exchange, etc ‐ like an informal mentoring relationship)

One of the advantages of doing this correctly is that it leaves a favourable last impression, ie you did the right thing by the organization and your successor

People displaying the following characteristics should be excluded from succession plans

Find it hard to motivate themselves for new tasks

Find it hard to get out of bed in the mornings

Focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects of their work

Do not take pride in their work

Have a demotivating effect on colleagues

Constantly watch the clock ‐ cannot wait until it reaches the working day's end

Regularly arrive late for meetings and work appointments

Not keen to network with colleagues

Feel paranoid if excluded from meetings and/or planning sessions

Regularly survey the job sections in newspapers

In summary, a comprehensive succession plan should

Transfer knowledge and new skills as quickly and efficiently as possible

Positively position the successor among all the affected stakeholders

Create an attitude of excitement about the new opportunities that will result from the change in leadership

Allow you to leave when you are happy that things are in capable hands

(sources: Harvard Management Updates, 2001; Fiona Cameron, 2002; Andrew Cornell, 2003; James Hall, 2004a)

 

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