Why Automate Succession Planning When You Do it Like the Mob?

Sean Conrad Sean Conrad

Automating traditional succession planning is a waste of time when you do it like the mob. Why do you need software to help you with succession planning if your model is “Sonny got whacked – get one of his guys to take over.”  You don’t.

With the org chart replacement model, you basically look at Bob Importantguy, Executive VP ofSopranos_seas6_poster Incredibly Important Stuff, and ask yourself, “what do we do when Bob gets hit by a bus?”  The solution in this model is to look at Bob’s direct reports, Jed Upandcomer, VP of Pretty Important Stuff, and Sally Gogetter, VP of Really Important Stuff and pick one to take his place.

Of course, if you pick Sally but Jed is also a high performer, you greatly increase the risk he’ll leave the organization.  There’s nothing proactive about this approach.  No one was prepared or trained to get ready to take on this role.  And, high performing employees don’t have a clear path forward with the “wait until something happens to your boss” approach.  Automating the org chart model just makes it easier to do the wrong thing.  It’s not so much succession planning, as there’s no planning being done.  It’s just a slightly tamer version of the Death Pool.

Okay, so you know I work for a vendor, right?  Yeah, there’s way more to this than that.  Like Yoda said when he feared Luke wasn’t ready and would be killed if he fought Lord Vader: “There…is…another…Sky..walker.” (Apparently today is my day for mixing metaphors.)

There is another model for real, proactive succession planning, the talent pool approach.  This best practice approach actually includes “planning.” It works by examining what Bob does, what competencies are helping him succeed in his role, and determining what level of competencies are required to perform well in the role. It might not just be Bob’s job that gets examined, but a group of employees, say all VPs with similar competencies.  That’s a talent pool.

Next you look across the organization and find out who else might be good at the things you need for this role. The goal isn’t to find the people who are already perfect for the role, although it can do that.  It’s really to identify who has the potential to do well in this role, and then – this is the key part – actively develop – those people to fill a role in the talent pool.  To do this right, you integrate performance management, succession planning and learning management. Now you are proactively “planning” succession, and actively developing your employees to build bench strength in key areas.

So, when Bob gets hit by a bus, you’ve got a pool of people you have been developing to fill this role. A pool of great, prepared employees who are ready to step in and replace poor Bob.  Even if you end up choosing one of Bob’s direct reports like Sally, you have examined a pool of candidates that might fit the needs of this position, and you have all the information you need to make the best choice.  Even better, the other members of the pool can still be developed to fill important roles in the organization.  So, when you promote Sally, Jed still feels valued and has a clear career path, and is much less likely to leave the organization.

Plus, it’s much less likely that Jed will have Sally whacked to get the job!

Editor’s NoteDon’t Feed the Vendors is a new series at FOT.  The goal of the DFTV series?  We get hammered by third parties who want to write at FOT, so we give them a challenge.  Write something cool and significant we can learn from/talk about in the FOT style, and you can roll with the FOT crew.  Try to sell our readership your product and/or provide a whitepaper, and we’ll openly mock your company in public for not understanding the DNA of our readership.  Many inquire, few follow through once they learn they can’t post a workup of their latest “research”.  For those that make the cut, we’ll offer up associate FOT membership as part of the Don’t Feed the Vendors stable.

Sean Conrad of Halogen Software is one of the ones that made the cut.  Show him some love in the comments for being up to the challenge and not writing something that should be read on PBS.