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Succession Planning For Emergencies and the Long-Term

As we reflect on the events of the past few years, one quote has resonated with us: “Fortune will favor those who are prepared.” It has become increasingly evident how fragile an organization’s infrastructure can be without proper resources, talent, and preparedness. The unplanned departure of a key employee can leave an organization open to setbacks. As leaders, our objective is to empower our team, peers, and the communities we serve with the capabilities and education to continue with the least disruption in the event that leadership is unexpectedly unavailable. Here are some steps your organization can take to prepare for change.

How do we start?

Assess your organization’s willingness or position:

1. Board Involvement: If the board requests a succession plan, obtaining buy-in from other leaders on the individuals selected and the process may prepare for an easier transition later on.

2. Leadership Commitment: Irrespective of the board, leaders have a role in paving the way for smooth and thoughtful transitions to future leaders. If the leaders are not ready, consider this transition plan from a change management perspective.

After assessing the organization’s willingness and readiness, you can take two approaches: emergency preparedness or future capacity building.

Emergency Preparedness:

Start by deciding who are the key employees who will need to be involved in a leadership transition. Typically, this would involve the Chief Financial Officer, Executive Director, or anyone with decision-making authority. Once a determination is made of which roles would be necessary to keep the organization moving forward, ask the following question:

Can we identify someone on the team who will feel comfortable handling this pivotal role if the key employee suddenly leaves due to unexpected reasons?

If the answer is yes, keep asking questions such as:

  • What will the team member need to know to keep the daily responsibilities?

  • Who should be introduced to the team member?

  • How should the team member be introduced?

  • Is the leadership team in alignment?

If the answer is no, ask the following questions:

  • Can we identify someone on another team or within the department to manage the urgent interim responsibilities with help, support, and short-term development? (If so, determine the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps to prepare them immediately.)

  • Is there someone from outside of the organization? If this is the course you take, ensure that information is readily available for the outside individual. What would they need to know on day one?

Future Capacity Building

Succession planning consultants can help facilitate and implement a succession plan, but the organization needs to be ready and willing to see the plan through. Asking some of the questions listed below will provide insight into where the organization stands.

  • Has the organization identified and determined its future needs?

  • Does the organization know what skills tomorrow’s leaders will need to meet organizational goals?

  • Can the organization identify the gaps between the skills represented in the current talent pool and the skills required in the future?

After answering the questions above, the organization will be better poised to start succession planning. Begin by identifying future leaders and work with them to develop and find opportunities for their specific growth. In addition, organizations can look into ways to further define what it means to be a successful leader in the organization’s future state. Examples of Growth Opportunities Can Include:

  • Workshops around building a profile with competencies and skillsets needed by future leaders.

  • Training programs to bridge the gap between what skill is possessed and what is required.

There is something uniquely meaningful about leaders envisioning and planning for a future without their direct involvement; it is hard work and can be challenging to one’s ego. However, succession planning provides the opportunity to strategize on the 'how' and the 'who' that can propel the organization you’ve contributed to grow to the next level.

Please contact Kiwi Partners’ HR Services if you would like assistance in developing your organization's succession planning.


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