Succession Planning

by Martin Haworth

Step 9 – regular fine adjustments

As you progress this succession planning activity, be prepared to fine-tune and adjust as you go along. Plans don’t always come to fruition, because life frequently throws up unexpected circumstances.

There are two aspects to this: firstly, plans may change because of unexpected shifts, so events don’t turn out as you expected, and secondly, the actions you take don’t always work as you hope.

This is all about ‘do and review’, a feedback mechanism that works with just about any activity that you care to undertake. It’s vital to incorporate this into the core of your succession planning activities.

However hard you try, and with the best will in the world, things don’t always turn out exactly as you want, so you need to make up that shortfall with the learning you extract for the next time.

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(y per cent)

So, when things don’t work as you expect, remember that this is an opportunity too.

As you accept the possibilities of changes to your considered approaches, your succession planning will evolve and grow, particularly where you gain experience in how to do it.

Things that go ‘wrong’?

There are many areas where you can learn from what fails to achieve the high standards you set. Here is an incomplete list, to give you a flavour of what you might discover:

  • Assumptions that turn out to be mistaken
  • Beliefs that are flawed
  • Poor performance
  • Inconsistency
  • Missing timescales
  • Being less than specific or precise with actions
  • Inadequate measurement.

There are more...

Sometimes, changing direction can be counter-intuitive. We tend to stand by earlier decisions, where logic would tell us to move right along, so it’s necessary to be aware that one of the problems we face may well be us.

Be prepared to learn from others

An objective assessment of where you are right now, perhaps with the support and input of trusted others, is always going to be the most appropriate test of how close your succession planning is coming to delivering to the bigger goal of sustainable performance.

You have people all around you who can support you in evaluating and learning, so use them. Be prepared to get all the stakeholders involved.

Where you have personal issues that suggest a need for improvement, seek feedback and listen to it; seek clarity and then consider your own development steps. Listen and accept feedback without making excuses. Instead, take action so you are even better next time. If you do this, you will grow and develop, as well as modelling the skill to others, who will learn from it too.

Having learned and developed, make sure that the changes are accommodated in future rounds of succession planning.

Step nine activities

By creating a feedback loop for all you do, you set your succession planning up to evolve and grow. This is how to do it:

  • For each step you take, create some time to analyse how successful it was
  • Be honest and ask ‘What went well?’ so that you appreciate the value of the successes
  • Be equally honest and ask ‘What was really challenging?’
  • Then, where the value kicks in, ask ‘If we were doing this again, what would we do differently, next time?’
  • Over time, capture your learnings as you refine the processes you use
  • Share the learnings with others, where you can. It helps them, embeds your own learnings and, even better, it shows you up as a resource that others value highly!

The final step of succession planning is all about time and how to move from some input, to hardly any at all.