The Rocket Science of Succession Planning

Rocket Science WEBOn a survey gathering data for a retreat for a client, there were questions about their succession planning program. After receiving a survey back, I would interview each respondent to gather some deeper info as to reasons behind their answers. One person commented: “I really haven’t made any plans to replace myself.” Succession planning is about you, but not ALL about you. Another respondent commented, “I don’t know what we’re going to do when Bernice leaves.” Bernice, not her real name, is the CEO. These team members obviously haven’t a clue as to what it takes to launch the succession planning rocket. Further, they fail to understand the full purpose and impact of a succession planning program.

In addition to a misunderstanding about who to include in a succession planning program, the following items received low to moderate scores:

  • Talent Management
  • Training and Development
  • Accountability
  • Coaching and Mentoring
  • Career Management
  • Key Performance Indicators in Place

The above items are key components in launching any succession plan. Without these, even if you have a plan, it can’t be a good one. One point is clear though. The statement, “I don’t know what we’re going to do when Bernice leaves.” is a clear signal that a succession plan is non-existent. Without a plan, there may be chaos among those who want the position, or no clear choice among the team, or there may be no one who is ready to move the strategic plan forward. The organization will lose ground, and market share with no one ready to take the helm. This rocket topples over on the launch pad.

Who is responsible for succession planning? If Bernice does indeed leave, the Board is responsible for filling that position. If they haven’t been preparing for Bernice’s replacement, power struggles will break out, discouraged team members may leave, and poor morale will permeate the entire organization.

OK, enough doom and gloom, let’s put some lipstick on this pig. Here are six steps to put a successful succession plan in place.

  1. Ensure that your team appreciates the value of succession planning and talent management and development.
  2. Understand the organization’s business plan and goals. The strategic plan dictates the talent required to move your company forward in order to meet strategic goals.
  3. Review your current talent and identify team members who first, have an interest in moving up and secondly who have the potential to fill the positions the organization requires to move forward.
  4. Identify the gaps between the talent you need to meet strategic goals and your bench strength.
  5. Establish a development program for the knowledge, skill, and attributes to meet the demands of your business plan.
  6. When the time comes to put someone in place, look at who is ready now, not someone who will take another one to two years to fit the bill.

Succession planning is not rocket science. However, it is the fuel that will propel your organization forward. Don’t let your company’s vision get stuck on the launching pad.

Thank you for reading this blog. If your team wants more information on the strength of your bench, call 404-320-7834, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit

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Business Growth, Talent Management,, Succession Planning,