Improving Succession Planning


In the khstriya clan in the old days when a king is about to retire he and his council prepare to identify, nominate, evaluate and finalize on the next king. They plan for his
succession. Leadership continuity makes us feel secure, thus if you observe whenever there is transition there is chaos for quite some time, people feel insecure until the leader starts
taking control and proves to one and all that he is as good or better than his predecessor. Corporate are like the kshrtiya clan, they need to identify and groom their leaders early too. We call this succession planning.

Lets look at the various ways of succession planning in Indian firms and then let me share with you an approach that you could use for succession planning in your firms.

The methods listed below are described based on my experience in corporate & consulting world and are practiced for succession planning across levels in the organization.

The first way is – Direct Selection – Here the leader himself/herself selects the successor, no questions asked, competent or not the new person gets the leadership role, mostly observed in promoter firms where they are obsessed with person to lead or where dictatorial or authoritative style is practiced.

The next is – External Selection – In such cases organization looks at hiring a completely new individual to take on the exiting leader’s role. The organization board representatives or business leaders feel a new leader is needed to steer the ship.

Another kind is Nomination, the common method that most organizations follow who believes in growing talent internally. In this process one or more individuals compete for the role.

Identifying and selecting the ‘right’ person for the ‘right’ role yields tremendous results for an organization, and my dear friends don’t limit succession planning to leadership roles only, I say build a culture of meritocracy right from mid managerial roles, that’s when everyone is attuned to the system and there is more belief and confidence that we are in the hands of the right leaders. Your decision to make this small change in thought for
your organization will lead to ‘big’ impact/s in the future. Here is an approach (in brief) you could follow and imbibe in the firm: I call it the “Snow”; spelt “Snoae” model.

SNoAE – Seek, Nominate, Assess, Evaluate 

Seek – For succession across levels the first step is to seek (look out) for talent, this is primarily done by the business.

Nominate Once we have the talent pool identified we (business) need to nominate for the “ROLE”, not just nominate anyone but basis specific fitment guidelines nominate one or
more candidates for the “role”.

Assess – Assess if the individual has the requisite capability to take on the role, you could use various assessment tools and methodologies available in the market for this, or seek external help.

Evaluate – Create a robust talent review panel who will evaluate the candidates overall fitment to the “ROLE” and make the final selection and decide on what learning needs are
to be imparted to make him/her ready for the “role”.

This is not rocket science but doing it ‘efficiently’ and ‘effectively’ is. As human resource practitioners, like the council in old days it’s your duty to select the right king for your kingdom for without the right leader, one day for sure we are going to be misled. As Anne Mulcahy – ex HR leader who became CEO of Xerox puts it – “One of the things we miss in succession planning is that it should be gradual and thoughtful, with lots of sharing of information and knowledge and perspective, so that it’s almost a non-event when it happens”.

Let’s try to inculcate this practice in our organizations, lets create that big impact let’s put this in our to-do list, right now!!

Author-Ajay Venkatesh is a passionate human resource consultant. He currently works with the people advisory team at EY as a Manager, his specialization include Talent Management, OD and D&I. He is an engineer from MIT, Pune and an IIM-K alum. He has more than. 11 years of work experience comprising of corporate and consulting HR roles. He has worked in organizations like Pearson, Randstad and GVK. Ajay is an active knowledge contributor in the human resource space.


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