Succession Planning

by Martin Haworth

Step 4 – Where are you right now?

Now that you have got ideas about where you want to get with your business or team, you will be able to take an overview of what needs to happen to get there.

This is where you keep calm, progress gradually and remember that the beauty of the best succession planning is that you have a time-frame which, in the main and mindful of organisational directives that are not within your control, you can manage effectively.

Succession planning is a ‘move towards’ activity that you steadily, actively and dynamically manage, once you have assessed both your current business performance as well as the performances of the key players in your team.

Now that you have visualised the ideal you want, in a time frame that is achievable (and, to maximise momentum, reasonably demanding), it’s time to sit down and consider, either alone or with a trusted senior team member, what needs to happen.

Inevitably there will be issues you must face now, as well as some that loom ahead. By getting down to this detail now, you will ensure that whatever steps you gradually take in your succession planning activity are the steps you actually need to take.

Remember, the aim here just to build awareness – you don’t need to resolve every issue immediately – many will be ‘move towards’ considerations. That said, you need to be very clear on

  • The gaps in your current team
  • Gaps you can expect and even not expect
  • Any performance issues where current standards, if you are honest, are not good enough
  • Any personal sensitivities that you have in dealing with these issues.

To be complete in your assessment of your current status, you need to find out – with ruthless honesty – who and what your team’s people and performance issues are. It’s time to recognise that as you gradually progress these issues will need to be resolved, however unpalatable this might appear to be.


You will be relieved to know that when challenging decisions need to be made and discussions have to be held, those individuals concerned are very often less than happy in their role. The truth is that those who are struggling to deliver, even where support has been provided, know they are failing and feel under pressure and, as a consequence, unhappy.

Helping underperforming individuals is an act of caring, rather than a bad thing. Always remember that helping someone to a better role, where they are more fulfilled and happy, is a positive step that may well have been overlooked for years.

Step four activities

Don’t underestimate the phrase, ‘what needs to happen’; it represents a huge step. In fact, it will move your dreamy vision activity into reality, so it’s critical to consider business and people performance issues.

Business performance issues

  • Identify each key area where performance will be measured to achieve the vision.
  • How are you actually performing right now in each of them? To help you, score each out of 10 (it might be a subjective – but it will work for you).
  • What will need to change to achieve at least 9/10 as your score?

You might find it helps to have top-line activities, say 10 of them, and then, once each is measured, drill down into individual components of the key area of activity. This way you will rapidly identify where performance blocks are.

This is an activity you can undertake by yourself or with your team. Even better, delegate the reviews to your key people so they go and investigate and you involve others in the process!

People performance issues

When you have your findings, identifying where you are getting less than at least a 9/10 level of performance, it’s time to consider why, by identifying underperformance of those in your key roles.

  • Quickly consider current weaknesses, identified where you, or other key members of your team, have to carry out activities that are outside your own role.
  • Who are the ‘underperformers’ that require consistent support?
  • Which of your people seem to be in the wrong role?
  • Where is performance suffering and who is the individual in the accountable role?
  • Who have you not dealt with firmly enough?

Be very careful to review the potential of everyone available to you for the future. Often, individuals become categorised as underperformers because they are a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Frequently, an apparent poor performer is a simply good performer who has not yet found their square hole.

The activities in this step may seem onerous, yet they will be achievable in an afternoon or so where you work with a key team of people (a little longer, if some of the work has a wider contribution).

It is the most vital groundwork that you have to do if you are to progress rapidly and effectively.

You will need to take your people with you when change needs to happen. The most effective way to do this is to communicate as fully as you can with them, which means Keeping your people informed.