The Secrets to Effective Succession Plans

These are proven techniques to make succession planning effective, based on my 30+ years of advising scores of companies.

  1. The leader needs to be the driver and chief architect.  HR can be a facilitator, but should not lead succession planning.
  2. Expand your thinking beyond internal candidates–you don’t want the best of what’s available, but rather the best fit.
  3. Don’t begin by identifying candidates for each existing position.  Instead, identify the compentencies required for each position today and in the future.
  4. Use more than just opinions to make assessments.  Use information such as education, prior levels of responsibility, key successes, proven ability to learn, etc.
  5. Pay attention to critically important development points, such as the jump from functional responsibilities to P&L accountability.  Identify these and support them.
  6. Group meetings to discuss succession candidates are wasted if they are simply opinion focused.  Think through how to develop a group perspective on talent and development.
  7. Succession plans offer little real value.  What are your action plans to close gaps and accelerate critical development?
  8. You’ll learn a lot when you see the candidates each leader proposes for his/her position.  Some of the learning you won’t like.
  9. Hold leaders accountable for follow-through on succession actions.  That’s where the real  value is, and where succession often fails to deliver.
  10. Demonstrate leadership by being the first to follow-through with targeted development plans for your own potential candidates.

Bob Legge works with companies to improve individual and organizational performance. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, non-profits, education and government. To find out more, contact Bob at or call him at (585) 305-7853. Bob’s website is

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