Succession Planning

Succession planning is a concept that often is misunderstood, to the disadvantage of all concerned. People tend to use the term mistakenly, thinking it means one thing when actually it means something quite dissimilar. For example, people often confuse the succession planning process, which focuses on future needs of the organization, with substitution planning, which is directed at filling immediate vacancies. So before we get to the myths and realities of succession planning, let’s define this notion to make sure we’re on the same page.

 Succession planning is an continuing, long-term process to methodically develop talent throughout the organization so that there is a readily accessible, qualified pool of candidates to fill vital positions as they become vacant. The key is to expand the talent before individuals are promoted so they can be productive immediately. The aptitude to hit the ground running is particularly significant for those who fill critical positions.

 Here are two of the five of the most common myths about effective succession planning and the realities following each one:

 1. Succession planning is an event performed as needed.

 REALITY: Effective succession planning requires an on-going, systematic process that is tied to the organization’s strategy.


2. Succession planning and replacement planning are the same thing.

 REALITY: While people often confuse succession planning with substitution planning, the two are very different processes. substitution planning is used to fill vacancies as they occur without questioning the need to do so. In contrast, succession planning is forward-looking, considering not just the organization’s present needs, but its future direction and related needs as well. For example, it’s possible that positions that exist today will not be necessary in a few years, or that there will be more effective alternatives to staffing them, or that new positions will arise. Effective succession planning processes consider all of these possibilities.


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