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Succession Management in Business

Succession Management in Business


Succession is the act or process of following in order or sequence. (It is not to be confused with secession, the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or political entity.)

The act of succeeding, or following after; a following of things in order of time or place, or a series of things so following; sequence; as, a succession of good crops; a succession of disasters.


The power or right of succeeding to the station or title of a father or other predecessor; the right to enter upon the office, rank, position, etc., held any another; also, the entrance into the office, station, or rank of a predecessor; specifically, the succeeding, or right of succeeding, to a throne.

"encompasses the strategic process and actions aimed at ensuring a suitable supply of successors for senior or key jobs and future roles."

"Managing succession" (according to the Academy) "is more than fingering a slate of replacements for certain positions. It is a deliberate and systematic effort to project leadership requirements, identify a pool of high potential candidates, develop leadership competencies in those candidates through intentional learning experiences, and then select leaders from among the pool of potential leaders."

Succession management is playing an increasingly important role in many organisations. However more holistic and strategic approaches often elude both HR professionals and executives. Robert Fulmer examines the evolution of succession management and rev eals how a number of best practice organisations are leading the way

We're currently witnessing the impact of an emerging new breed of succession management systems. Contemporary systems no longer think just about the replacement of talent, but also focus on development. These new approaches take a more systemic approach toward an organisation's human capital.

Why the new interest in succession?

The forces that have renewed interest in succession systems and have changed them in dramatic ways are trends that have affected business in the new global economy. Leadership is and has always been a relatively scarce commodity within companies. To lose a strong, effective leader is a serious blow to any organisation.

Companies reward high performers with opportunities for development and not necessarily extended, long-term employment. The internet has enhanced the mobility of leadership talent, making it easy for employees to find opportunities elsewhere and for those opportunities to come knocking on their door. Executive recruiters and headhunters today possess greater clout and sophistication. No longer is it unfair game to recruit your competitor's best and brightest workers. Non-stop, unpredictable organisational change has caused organisations to quickly identify growing gaps in talent and emerging needs for new types of talent.

Best practice in succession management

Our research has found that 'succession savvy' corporations possess several traits that characterize their winning approaches to succession management. First, their succession systems are easy to use. Winning systems are non-bureaucratic, uncomplicated processes with a unified approach to ensure consistency and maintain objectivity across business units, organisational levels and geographic areas.

The best systems are developmentally oriented, rather than simply replacement oriented. The system becomes a proactive vehicle for managers and executives to reflect on the progress of their talent and the opportunities they require for genuine development. Highly effective systems always actively involve the very top players in the organisation. Senior executives view effective succession management as a critical strategic tool for attracting and retaining talent.

Best practice succession systems are also effective at spotting gaps in talent and identifying important lynchpin positions the select set of jobs that are critical to the overall success of the organisation. Succession planning does the job of monitoring the succession process, enabling the company to ensure that the right people are moving into the right jobs at the right time and that gaps are being spotted early on.

The most successful systems are built around continual reinvention. Best practice companies continually refine and adjust their systems as they receive feedback, monitor developments in technology and learn from other leading organisations. Where old systems were characterised by complete confidentiality and secrecy, today's systems actually encourage involvement by individuals who are participants and candidates. Under older systems, few participants knew where they actually stood in terms of their potential for career opportunities ahead.

Developing the leaders for succession management

Developing a shared plan
Overview of succession planning process
Talent development programs
A case study for success
Lessons learned and future focus
Leadership development framework

Leadership development: key elements
Leadership development framework: the interrelated components
Enbridge leadership model & competencies
Leadership capability assessment
Succession management process
Second generation enhancement: leadership development strategies/programs
Succession management barriers

organisational culture
low priority given by senior officials
insufficient resources
inadequate rewards for initiative/risk
limited mobility
Lack of role models.
Leaders, according to the study, are not perceived as a "corporate asset" in the same way they often are in the private sector. Accordingly, less resources are dedicated to the recruitment and development of the leadership group.

This view was supported by Schall11 in her exploration of public sector succession. She isolated four types of barriers to succession management being taken seriously in the public sector:

1. Current leader's reluctance to take up the succession "task";

2. The assumption that succession issues are beyond the scope of the leader's work;

3. Confusion about what is meant by succession planning (replacing oneself or strategic "positioning");

4. How to plan succession in the midst of a shifting political environment and given regulatory and political

Building the managers for succession management

The new and changing mindset about people
Developing a people strategy plan
Talent management as a strategic and holistic approach
Integrated solution approach to leadership development
Management change and restructuring issues
Dealing with cultural adaptation
Implementing training programs
Requirements for success

Companies that create an effective succession management process:

Quickly anticipate and fill succession gaps
Identify employees with high management potential and actively plan their careers and development to build "bench strength"
Align their "people strategy" with their "business strategy." As a company grows and its strategy evolves, its leadership needs can change significantly. To meet needs like these, companies must regularly discuss their talent recruitment and development practices.
When organizations meet these requirements, they create the kind of leadership and management capacity that delivers sustainable business results. They also reduce the range in performance in key roles, minimize attrition among top performers, and promote a high internal hiring rate.

Many senior managers think their company is adept at succession planning, and they may be right. The problem is that although succession planning is essential, it's just the first step. It's equally important to develop the leaders and managers so they can execute the business strategy and deliver results. That's why companies that succeed at finding and nurturing leaders who can grow their business do more than plan: They excel at succession management.

Let's take a look at how the best organizations make the succession process an integral part of their culture and how they go about developing and nurturing tomorrow's leaders.


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