There is a definite relationship between succession planning and corporate culture. The desired relationship is compatible – which will not happen by chance. Owner/Managers and Nonprofit Boards have responsibility for ensuring compatibility.
Great care must be taken when considering succession planning to ensure that things are not said or done that may cause or contribute to unrest within the organisation (whether a commercial or nonprofit entity). Succession planning strategies can range from multi-skilling or cross-skilling among peers through to identifying another member of staff with the potential to rise to a key position, and actively initiating plans to cover such an absence.
The bottom-line in succession planning is that the quality and standard of work at all levels of activity, and the reputation and integrity of the entity, are not compromised. The process of developing a policy and procedure on succession planning must be appropriate and relevant to a specific entity – and to the current stage of growth, market-acceptance and viability.
The Owner/Manager or Board to facilitate and allow free and open discussion on the benefits of succession planning. Brainstorming a range of strategies (with rationale) is a reasonable starting point. During this discussion, consider and document the strengths of a succession planning process against the weaknesses of not having one. Following discussion, establish a small group as a Working Party to draft a succession planning policy and procedure for the next open and free discussion. Sample Terms of Reference for this Working Party follow:
Purpose of the Succession Planning Working Party:
To draft a policy and procedure to enable the least possible detrimental effect as a direct result of the unexpected departure or unavailability of a person occupying a designated key position in the formal structure. Causes for unexpected departure or unavailability can range from unexpected and positive circumstances (eg winning the lottery) to circumstances that result in trauma or damage to one or more persons, to the workplace or to the entity itself.
The Succession Planning Working Party may consist of:
- Owner/Manager or Board Chairperson,
- one person with skill and experience in the area of succession planning, who may be a person from outside the entity,
- one experienced Board member who is familiar with the entity,
- one staff member who is familiar with the entity, and
- the CEO or relevant senior manager.
The Succession Planning Working Party will:
- be facilitated by the Owner/Manager or Board Chairperson,
- agree on procedures that will support the purpose,
- finalise validated and costed recommendations within three months, and
- arrange and host an open and free discussion of their recommendations.
- define and describe ‘designated key positions’ in the formal organisational structure, and document the rationale for allocating this designation,
- identify the impact on this and related positions, and on the entity, should any key position become suddenly vacant or the incumbent be suddenly or unexpectedly unavailable,
- consider the nature of support seen to be essential to ensure ongoing effectiveness of such a position in the event of the incumbent being unable to continue – and of related positions,
- draft a procedure that could best address a sudden vacancy – as result of a positive or negative event – with consultation with the incumbent where that person is willing and available: the issue of job design is relevant here,
- draft an appropriate recognition and reward system, affordable within available resources, with options that will prove meaningful (rather than demeaning) to a person in a key position in order to ensure ongoing effectiveness of the position,
- draft an implementation plan, which sets out how the total policy and procedure on succession planning should be activated for an anticipated event, as well as in the case of a sudden event or emergency, and
- give an indication of the wider implications, and nature and extent of resources (including financial) required to ensure satisfactory implementation of this policy and procedure.
The objective is that following open and free discussion, a policy and procedure will be widely accepted – recognising that each occasion for implementation will receive appropriate care and consideration.
Note – I have my preferred Corporate Culture Model, and will be pleased to share it with email requests.