Let’s say I’m hit by a bus before I finish this blog. Well, you’ll have no idea what I have to say about succession planning because no one is set to take this particular blog post over for me. I feel like that’s an acceptable risk. How about you?
What happens to your organization if you don’t show up tomorrow. Maybe you aren’t hit by a bus; let’s say you win the lottery and decide you’re retiring. Do you know who will take your spot so you can get on a plane to Europe tomorrow? What happens to your organization?
An example in strategic succession planning
You may understand the importance of succession planning, but how do you get started? I just happen to have a great example for you to use as a way to get the juices flowing on how to structure your own succession plan.
Central IT at the University of Minnesota has a new VP, and he’s making a plan and putting it in writing; keeping it simple (they have a lot of bus traffic on campus). Check it out (names have been changed to protect the innocent and to keep you from head hunting the U of M’s future leaders):
|Role||Current Person||Hit by a bus||0-2 years out||3+ years out||5-10 years out|
|VP CIO||S. O’Leary||Sharon O.||Sharon O., Shawn N., Kristin S.||Dawn T., Jack K.||Cho H.|
|AVP||B. Polanco||Julia H.||Casey J., Hayley W., Adita H.||Liz R., Catherine L.||Kay D.|
|CoS||M. Luethe||Jess M., Sarah J., Feng M.||Paul P., Joe P.|
|ACIO||C. Jones||Matt O.||Shirley R., Tony H., Matt O.||Christine S., Ben K.||Gwen L.|
|ACIO||J. Sharma||Mei F.||Rich D., Mei F., Nick H.||Chris O., Tracey G.||Oscar W.|
|ACIO AT||M. Goldberg||Joe A.||John P., Joe A., Connie S.||Mike P., Jeff B.|
|AT Director||S. Christiansen||John N.||New Hire||Will F., Bill O.|
|Infrastructure Director||J. Hyke||Curt M.||Beth A., Cathy G., Curt M.||Jared F., Anne K.||Natasha V.|
|Support Director||S. Johnson||Tom G.||Tom G., Jordan P., Nate D.||Jill S., Benicio T.|
|Apps Director||L. Tucker||Julie C.||Angela A., Julie C., Jeffrey R.||Vikram R., Melissa F.||Jeremy T.|
|Business Office Director||A. Cheung||Karen C.||Kellie F., Tom B., Karen C.||Heather J., Donna R.|
|ERP Upgrade Director||C. Zuckman||Ben K.||Sam H., Rafi G., Ben K.||Sol O., Justin T.|
|Security Officer||K. Swensen||Rachel R.||Javier B., Dallas E., Rachel R.||Chaoxiang A., Bob K.||Travis B.|
|Enterprise Arch.||T. Ghandi||Dan W.||Carol R., Dan W., Ryan W.||Dana L., Arlo D.||Yvonne S.|
|Green||This will be smooth. Some things will be done differently, but it will be fine.|
|Yellow||Some development is needed but nothing major. This is OK risk.|
|Red||This is a risk. We might want to hire somebody specifically for this risk or start an aggressive development plan for people in this box.|
0-2 years out: These are the people who may bid on the job. Be harder on the color here. Be willing to be frank about development. As the role owner, it is your job to help coach/mentor on the development. Hit by a bus: This is the person who will do the job tomorrow if the person in the current role gets “hit by a bus.” This is a short term answer while the job is searched.
3+ years out: These people are likely going to be in this job at some point, but it will take 3+ years of clear developmental goals to get them there. The role owners can score the color however they want. They should coach/mentor people in this box monthly/quarterly.
5-10 years out: These are up and comers. Not all people will be listed here. The role owners may list a few people in this box just to keep tabs on them. No formal mentoring is required, just an awareness.
Now granted, this is not a full-scale succession plan and there is a lot more that goes in to developing one (it’s not just about sticking names in a chart). However, it’s not often that we have access to these kind of examples. The chart above is just one real-world example of how one department is getting things done.
Now, I made it through this blog without needing a successor. I consider that pure luck. Are you going to continue running your organization on luck, or are you going to put together a succession plan?
Start by thinking in terms of two years out and gradually move on from there. Use the descriptions from the example above to think about the type of leaders you’ll need to sustain your organization. Develop and train them now for success well into the future.