What is Succession Planning?

Succession Planning

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Succession Planning

Succession planning is a systematic process through which organizations identify and develop potential leaders or key personnel to fill business-critical positions that may become vacant in the future. It ensures that businesses continue to run smoothly after the company’s most important people move on to new opportunities, retire, or pass away.

The goals of succession planning include:

  • Ensuring Business Continuity: By identifying and developing successors in advance, organizations can ensure a smoother transition when changes in leadership or critical roles occur.
  • Mitigating Risk: Organizations can avoid or reduce operational interruptions or the sudden loss of knowledge that occurs when key people leave.
  • Developing Talent: It emphasizes ongoing talent development, ensuring that potential successors are prepared to take on key roles.
  • Retaining Top Talent: Employees are more likely to stay with the organization if they understand their career path and potential for upward mobility.
  • Building a Strong Organizational Culture: When leadership transition is seamless, it reinforces a culture of stability and growth.

Steps in Succession Planning:

  1. Identify Critical Roles: Determine which positions are crucial for business operations and growth.
  2. Identify Potential Successors: Look within the organization for high-potential employees who can be groomed to take over critical roles.
  3. Assess Skills & Development Needs: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these potential successors.
  4. Develop & Train: Implement training programs, mentorship opportunities, and other developmental activities.
  5. Evaluate & Adjust: Continuously review the succession planning strategy to account for changes within the organization or its environment.
  6. Communicate: Ensure potential successors are aware of their career paths and that stakeholders know about the succession plan.
  7. Review Periodically: As with all strategic plans, succession plans should be reviewed and updated periodically.

By having a proactive approach to succession planning, organizations can better ensure their long-term success and stability, even amidst changes in key personnel.

Example of Succession Planning

Let’s consider a fictional family-owned business, “Maplewood Furniture,” which has been in operation for three generations.


  • Maplewood Furniture has always been led by a member of the founding family.
  • The current CEO, Henry, is in his mid-60s and is considering retirement within the next five years.
  • He has three children: Anna, who works in marketing for a tech firm; Benjamin, who has been with the company for 10 years and is currently the head of sales; and Charles, who is a doctor.

Succession Planning Steps:

  1. Identify Critical Roles:
    • The most crucial role to fill will be Henry’s position as CEO. Additionally, the CFO is nearing retirement age, and there’s a need for a plan for that position as well.
  2. Identify Potential Successors:
    • Given Benjamin’s experience with the company and knowledge of the industry, he’s a potential candidate for the CEO role.
    • Anna, despite her tech background, has shown interest in joining the family business and could potentially take over another executive role with some preparation.
    • Charles is committed to his medical profession and isn’t interested in the business.
  3. Assess Skills & Development Needs:
    • Benjamin has strong sales experience but may need further development in areas like supply chain management, global expansion, and digital transformation.
    • Anna, coming from a tech background, has valuable digital marketing skills. However, she may need a deeper understanding of the furniture industry and Maplewood’s specific operations.
  4. Develop & Train:
    • Benjamin could participate in an executive leadership program and work alongside Henry to get a holistic understanding of the CEO role.
    • Anna might start in a transitional role, perhaps working alongside the current CFO or another executive before taking on a larger leadership position.
  5. Evaluate & Adjust:
    • The company decides to bring in an external consultant to ensure their succession plan is robust and addresses any potential areas of bias.
  6. Communicate:
    • Henry holds a family meeting to discuss the succession plan, ensuring all family members are informed and any concerns are addressed.
    • Later, a company-wide announcement ensures that employees are aware of the planned leadership transitions, promoting transparency and reducing potential anxiety about the company’s future.
  7. Review Periodically:
    • As the years progress, Maplewood Furniture reviews and adjusts the succession plan, taking into account any changes within the business or in the family dynamics.

In this example, Maplewood Furniture’s succession planning ensures a smooth transition of leadership roles within the family, minimizes disruption, and capitalizes on the strengths of the next generation.

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