• Barnett Waddingham
    Barnett Waddingham
  • GUEST BLOG: Just in time succession planning – Everything you need to know

    By Brendan Murphy, Development Manager at Advanced People Strategies

    The effective management and leadership of an organisation’s talented individuals is one of the key challenges facing all Human Resource and Learning & Development professionals at the moment.

    Some would argue that it could be defined as one of the main reasons why some organisations thrive and respond effectively to major changes such as the increasing pace of technology, the impact of political forces such as Brexit etc. and why others struggle.

    Effective talent management and strategic succession planning should very much be viewed as an integral part of the organisation’s business continuity plan. So, what are the talent management factors that differentiate between organisations that thrive and organisations that struggle?

    What is Succession Planning?

    When we talk about succession planning what exactly do we mean? I remember dealing with the senior leadership team of a major financial services company and posing the question: in the worst-case scenario of this entire team falling under the proverbial big red bus, who are the people within the organisation who are ready now to step into your shoes and where will their replacements come from?

    The question triggered an interesting debate because it quickly became apparent that this senior team of leaders hadn’t given any meaningful consideration to who their successors were likely to be and – more fundamentally – why certain people were likely to be their successors rather than others.

    Traditional Approaches to Succession Planning

    Typically, when organisations have given some thought to how to plan their succession systems, the more sophisticated approaches have tended to include a combination of Assessment Centres, Development Centres, 360-degree feedbacks or Performance Management Systems. While none of these approaches are infallible, they are infinitely superior to the more traditional approach adopted in the past when it was simply a case of “if your face fits”.

    Managing Expectations

    A key challenge arising from the identification of any high potential pool of talent is how to manage the expectations of those who have been selected. A second factor to take into consideration is how to retain those identified as ‘top talent’ within a flat organisational structure. Additionally, the management of the disappointment of those who have not been included is critical, so that their abilities are not lost to the organisation.

    Typically, organisations have managed these challenges through a combination of special project assignments, fast-tracking through specific roles and levels in order to broaden an individual’s knowledge-base and skill-set in addition to broader exposure at the upper echelons of the organisation’s senior leadership. These individuals need to be managed carefully and mentored in order that their full potential is realised.

    Similarly, those deemed to be in the “secondary” pool of talent need to be managed equally carefully so that they remain  motivated and committed to the organisation. Personality factors such as ambition, personal adjustment and diligence all need to be carefully considered and assessed.

    J.I.T. Succession Planning

    In the 21st century we are all familiar with the idea of J.I.T. manufacturing/supply (Just in Time). Can this philosophy be successfully applied in the area of succession planning and talent management? How can organisations with people in multiple locations and from different cultural backgrounds address the challenge of their strategic succession planning in a focused and agile manner? Could technology be of assistance in this area?

    Similarly, organisations need to give consideration to what successful leadership will look like in perhaps 3,5,7 years so that there is a fully functioning strategic pipeline of talent emerging. More agile organisations will successfully take all of these factors into consideration, adapt to rapidly changing scenarios and thrive. Organisations rooted in the past tied to traditional ways of managing their talent will fail and wither.

    Where will your organisation be?


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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