Succession planning ensures we have someone ready to do a job tomorrow
In business, we use succession planning to ease short term supply problems ~ or in plain terms ~ to make sure that we have people available quickly, to do a job and to do it our way.
We have 3 basic methods of succession planning
#1 Do nothing or leave everything to chance
This is obviously the cheapest to do. It also sets the base line. Whatever else we do should work better than this, or we will stop doing it!
#2 Job cover for every position 5 years ahead
We make a database listing every job in the organization and every person in the organization. This massive ‘spreadsheet’ is repeated 6 times: now, next year, 2 years from now, etc. Every year, the plan is reworked to make sure that there is someone to cover every job 5 years ahead. That way someone’s training and work exposure is started well before they are likely to take on the whole role. And if someone resigns, there is already somebody in-house, trained and ready to take over.
This is the most expensive system and it works best when an organization is very stable.
#3 Evaluate the depth and potential of every team
This method looks at the potential of “critical” teams.
The depth of each team is assessed by rating each member on a 3×3 grid. On the vertical is their current performance (better than adequate, adequate, not adequate). On the horizontal is their potential (unlikely to go higher, will go up another level, will go up 2 or more levels).
This is a relatively cheap method because most of the data is already available from performance appraisals or it can be gathered intuitively from a panel of managers.
Succession planning in the information age
The key to #3 is an assessment of how much higher a person will go in the organization. The Economist today makes a good point. The level that a person will reach is no longer very relevant.
What is relevant is a person’s ability to
- gather information
- analyze information
- make sense of it
- present it so other people can make sense of it and know what to do with it
I can imagine some people thinking these skills mean research skills. That’s not quite what we mean. We mean skills linked to the internet.
- Make a website in minutes to make data available
- Use Google Alerts, Twitter and Search to keep abreast of events and to rapidly deduce what is relevant
- Mashup data so that other people can see what is happening
- Ask questions that are relevant to people around them
- Present data so that people understand the underlying processes and quickly understand what decisions they should make
- Track the effects of action
This sounds geeky. It is a little. To do any of this well, though, we need to understand people and their context.
What do they need to know and what will they do once they know?
Succession planning will ask then
- Is the person aware of what is going on around them? Do they gather and analyze the right information? Do they ask the right questions? Do they lay out information well? Do people understand them and people find it easier to act quickly and effectively?
- Is the person developing his or her information talents?
- Are they able to take on larger leadership roles with more complex & dynamic information environments than they currently enjoy?
It would be good to write up the types of information contexts that people work in currently and the demands on their attention.