Succession Planning: Five Critical Action Steps


Diane Kucala encourages today’s leaders to view succession planning as an opportunity to create positive momentum in all parts of an organization.

Most organizations understand that making the right hiring choices and building teams is essential to success. However, to create sustainable legacy, succession planning must be nurtured. Organizations committed to succession planning and legacy are able to transcend one single era of people and imbed their mission and values across generations of people.

Five Succession Planning Action Steps

1. Identify the key leadership/technical roles within the organization. These key roles are those your organization cannot afford to leave vacant, understaffed or underdeveloped. Moses’ appointment of Joshua and Jesus’ appointment of Peter are two examples. Not all succession planning is done exclusively at the top echelon, however. Solomon is a great example of a successful leader that provided leadership structure throughout his organization.

2. Identify top talent in the organization. These can include high potentials (superstar performers), and experts (technical, scarce talent, or those with historical knowledge). Jesus understood the personality style and talents of his disciples. He placed each of them in roles unique to their gifts and abilities. For example, Peter became a rock solid leader to head up the Jewish church. Paul, a courageous and persistent leader, was appointed to reach out to non-Jewish nations and to influence acceptance of diversity among the faithful.

3. Assess your talent for competency. This step would include review of past performance and work history, evaluation of advancement potential, and an objective assessment of leadership competency. Moses easily discerned that two leaders stood out among the twelve under his direction: Joshua and Caleb. Joshua’s experience, leadership capability, and talents, along with his righteous character positioned him (above Caleb) for the top successor role. Assessing talent requires a review of skill competency and character attributes for the specific vision, mission, and values needed for that appointment.

4. Create and implement development plans for key talent. Some development activities might include training, special stretch assignments, participation in Executive Staff meetings, rotational assignments, and coaching. As we’ve identified, Moses and Jesus both spent years training, mentoring, coaching and developing their leaders. Succession planning processes should include intentional training and development to equip and establish future leaders for success.

5. Generate a transition plan. Where possible, create strategic and communication plans in anticipation of succession moves. Moses and Jesus both endorsed, announced, and commissioned their successors prior to turning over the mantle of leadership authority. To the extent that time allows, the out-going leader provides the greatest amount of forward momentum when he/she follow this example.

We encourage today’s leaders to view succession planning as an opportunity to create positive momentum in all parts of the organization. The rewards will be well worth the effort.

What does succession planning look like in your organization? Has it made a difference?

Contributed by Diane Kucala

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