7 Warning Signs of a Weak Succession
Management Process

In our years of work with succession planning, we've observed seven warning signs that the succession process may need to be upgraded.  Here they are:

The 7 Warning Signs of a Weak Succession Process:

  1. Looking solely at today's positions instead of how they will be different in the future. 
  2. Investing in a single successor rather than a broader and deeper slate of candidates. 
  3. Using the subjective judgment of primarily one individual, not multiple sources.  Letting it be relatively inactive and unable to be jumpstarted without difficulty in a crisis.
  4. The lack of actionable development plans.
  5. Leaders are not held accountable for identifying high potentials and developing people.
  6. Not having a succession process and plan.

What to do about it:

1.  First, improve the process.

  1. Define a Leadership Pipeline Model to fit your company's needs.  Identify the process inputs and outputs.
  2. Develop standards for performance and potential that make sense for your company.  Communicate them throughout the company.
  3. Evaluate succession candidates using a combined potential-performance matrix.
  4. Review the development plans and progress of the entire Leadership Pipeline quarterly.

2.  Second, implement practices that create a strong leadership capability.

  1. A diligent recruiting effort to bring in people with leadership potential.
  2. Early and regular identification of potential and development needs.
  3. Challenging and stimulating development opportunities.
  4. Development plans focused on improving understanding of the industry and organization, building strong working relationships, and building higher level interpersonal skills.
  5. An environment that encourages employee engagement.

Tips for CEO's:

  • Be the key sponsor of succession planning development and execution in partnership with HR.
  • Set an example by being the first to identify potential candidates for your position and designing development plans for those people.
  • Set a deadline for completing a written succession plan.
  • Hold leaders accountable for succession planning and people development.
  • Communicate the succession plan to your Board and any other appropriate stakeholder groups.
  • Always consider succession issues in making strategic decisions.