Three Essential Ingredients for a Successful Succession Strategy


Process is important in everything.  Some of the most basic examples I think of are cooking, landscaping or business.  How often do you see a recipe fail when someone doesn't adhere to the recipe?  There can be times when minor adjustments give a new, innovative variation, but there are always essentials that need to be followed.  The same goes for landscaping.  Covey sited the "law of the farm" when he discussed how critical it is to allow sufficient time for things to occur in processes.  All of us want to have a green, lush lawn and shade trees, but these don't typically happen overnight.  Without planning and execution, that lawn and those trees will not happen overnight.


Business is another example where following the process is critical.  Business succession strategy is one process where you have to follow at least three key strategies to ensure success.  These strategies include the following:

  • Talent
  • Timing
  • Honesty

Let's take a look at all three to see how they play a role in Succession Strategy.

No CEO wants to turn his or her business over to a group that lacks sufficient talent to keep things moving forward.  Taking the time to fully analyze the talent on hand is crucial to making sure that the future state of the firm is solid.  There are many proven methods for identifying this talent and there are ways to improve given talents in any individual within a leadership team.  In most situations, lack of talent analysis will lead to failure when the future leaders take control.

Having talent is important, but time is also a critical issue when planning organizational succession.  The stories I can tell and others I have heard are sad when leaders don't thing far enough in advance when planning succession.  Just like the analogy involving lawns and trees, transitioning an organization takes time and it is not a "snap of the fingers" type of process.  Taking stock of who is on hand, where gaps exist, and then planning for the future state are all time-consuming processes that need to take place for a successful transition to occur.

Honesty is often overlooked, but I could have just as easily used the word Candor in the place of Honesty.  There are often times when the current leadership is afraid, or unwilling, to admit where gaps exist, and this happens more often in a family-owned business where blood lines often overrule leadership capacity.  Leaders need to be able and willing to admit who fits, and who does not, in the future state of the firm.  Lack of honesty at this point can point any firm into a downward spiral or a tangent course that is not recoverable.

Talent, Timing and Honesty are all three ingredients when planning for your organization's Succession Strategy.  Be sure you consider each as you enter this transition stage.



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