Succession Planning from the Bottom Up

Why is it when we hear the words “Succession Planning” do we automatically focus on only the CEO?  Granted this is the pin point of the top of the pyramid, but without a solid base the top of the pyramid doesn’t amount too much.  When the ancient pyramids were built, they didn’t start at the top, but at the basement level.

In fact, just to take the pyramid concept a step further, the architects had very detailed and thoughtful plans in place before they began laying the first brick, and these structures are still in place today.  If they had concentrated on only the very top of the structure, we would not have the opportunity to see and touch these monuments today.

Succession Planning is a process by which we build competencies in every employee so that they may support another.  If we are to only focus on a few “key positions” then the structure we are building we eventually fall and crumble.  Our organizations are only as good as the people we have working for us, and yet we often fail to have a comprehensive succession plan in place.  By our lack of planning, we become reactive and wait until someone resigns before we act.

Every employee that works for the organization needs to be able to perform their individual job function as well as possible.  As much as possible, it is preferred that every employee also is able to support at least one other job function.   

No two succession plans are the same, because the criteria for promotion and succession are tied to the company’s own culture.  But let’s be crystal clear, no company should be without a comprehensive succession plan that addresses the development needs of each role, and the requirements to assume a position.  By building your Succession Plan from the bottom up, nothing slips through the cracks for the top of the pyramid.  Design your plan with the assumption that your next CEO could come from any employee working for you today if that person develops the skills, attitudes and performance you are seeking. 

Succession Planning is often the function of the Human Resources Department because of their close ties with all management and employees.  Training is also a team member in this process as the annual strategic training plan needs to line up with the goals of the succession plan’s developmental needs.  Yet where a Succession Planning Committee is formed from all parts of the rank and file we see a sharing of the responsibilities for design and implementation.

The bottom line is this; by developing each person and each role in your succession plan you not only have an active pipeline of qualified people for future promotion, you have a very well run organization until succession is required.


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