Succession Planning And Its Challenges

To come to terms with the reality that one or more of an organisation’s popular, trusted and competent leaders will have to call it a day, is difficult. Some of the expressions thrown around are, indeed, a tribute to their contribution to the organisation’s growth and success.

This said, it is very important for the stability and credibility of the organisation that leaders are groomed in a planned and well-structured manner. While there may be some collateral damage and loss of some good people, when they know that they are not in the run for the next position, succession planning is a necessary process.

There are many ways to approach the issue of succession and each one of them is workable. All these approaches face challenges as well. These challenges are primarily because organisations are different and so are their operations, and the way they handle these important initiatives. Since it will be a very difficult task to list out and go into each of them, this piece has identified four aspects that companies have to contend with, and overcome.

Lack of a clear strategy

Filling in leadership positions is not a stand-alone process. It is linked to many factors like:

  • The roadmap of the organisation for the next few years
  • Deciding on key positions, keeping the future in mind
  • Keeping the structure functional, but lean

And a few more.

What one needs to remember is that every vacancy need not be filled, unless it is really very necessary. Merging of roles is not a taboo, but a progressive step.

The organic growth of a company depends on how it plans for the future, and is equipped when the implementation takes place. This needs investment in terms of time and money and therefore, may involve a few brainstorming sessions, with or without consultants who are experts in the process.

Resisting bias

Without mincing words, bias is still a very big obstacle to professionalism. Bias can take various forms like, for example, familiarity of working with a particular person or persons though she (or he) may not be the best choice for that position. Other forms of bias may include gender, race, caste or any personal orientation which managers find difficult to get over. Such biases blur the vision and prevent logical thought processes, thus making an exercise of this kind essential for an organisation.

Inability to accept that the change is inevitable

Insecurity among those who have been long in an organisation, but who have to move on due to redundancy caused by role or skills essential for that particular profile, may sometimes result in derailing or postponing the process of selecting relevant successors for key positions. Such an attitude can create tension in the work environment and can harm normal day to day operations too, if the situation gets out of hand. Succession planning can be undertaken only if the senior management believes that the organisation is bigger and more important than the individual and that nobody is indispensable. Though this may be “stating the obvious,” this is very relevant and a problem, human nature being what it is.

Proper assessment of potential incumbents

Most of the professionally managed companies have good performance appraisal systems to assess their employees. However, a common pitfall to avoid is assuming that a very good performer will do well is a role that carries more responsibilities. A structured and professional approach on the assessment of candidates based on the job description and skills required for the position will bring better results.

After shortlisting potentials for various positions, they should undergo a process of coaching and training on skills.

All these activities are time consuming, making it absolutely necessary to start well in time to avoid delay in implementing short term and long-term strategies for the organisation.