Organizations that extend development of talent into all levels of the organization are 4.2 times more likely to outperform those that don’t.

– DDI, The Conference Board, & EY. Global Leadership Forecast 2018

Succession Planning is An Improvement Cycle

When critical members of the team leave, it can be unsettling. Every organization has members who carry specific skills and knowledge that impact the entire organization. They know the technology systems, hold responsibility for major projects and understand the work flow to keep everything moving. They are the keepers of the history, working knowledge, and the processes often left undocumented. These employees are so good that the full team counts on them. Then, they decide to leave.

Cross-training and succession planning processes are key to long-term success. Rarely does proactive succession planning make it high enough in the “to do” list to actually get done. How we prepare for transitions and develop our people directly impacts the success of individual team members and the overall organization.

The “important work” gets lost in the urgency of the daily routines. Everyone is so busy “doing” their jobs the “urgent work” pushes “important work” out into the future. The stress of the work to be done leaves leaders and team members tapped out. The daily grind bleeds energy making it easy to lose sight of the people power that is ready to be unleashed in the organization.

A coherent plan for development and succession can make the difference in building momentum, engaging committed people, preventing burn out, and sustaining long-term success. The impact of succession planning is most significant for those remaining.

Building Momentum

The ability to improve outcomes and problem solve rests with our people. Developing the full team shifts thinking, behavior, and the overall culture. Momentum to improve an organization is easier to steer once there is initial progress. People at every level are the brain power for removing barriers and solving problems. Top performers – the most engaged 20% – are also capable of developing into the next generation of leaders. Teams thrive and results soar when everyone embraces the real work to be done. By developing the full team, we start the system flywheel moving in the right direction and demonstrate the commitment to living the principles of organizational excellence.

A well-designed succession planning process engages staff members so that the daily work flow is less reactive. It deepens the capacity of each member.

“Few know that recruitment, feedback and development are part of the key systems impacting organizational success.”

– W. Edwards Deming Out of the Crisis

Leaders are often slow to think of succession planning aside from with team members nearing retirement. We must remember, succession planning is an improvement cycle. It starts with a deep understanding of the key work of the organization and the important contributions each member of the team is making to align their work to organizational success.

The foundation of each job description and hiring plan rests on a well-designed and executed succession and adult learning plan. When team members resign, leaders will post the opening and the job role description based on what is known about the role. Yet, the person who best understands the demands of the role and how the work contributes to overall team success is the person leaving the job. Start succession planning for each role before your employees make career transitions.

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