Are you prepared to manage your succession plan internally?

Last year, 47% of homeowners in the US took on DIY (do it yourself) home improvement projects.[1] The growing DIY trend has permeated nearly every aesthetic market from interior design to landscaping to arts and crafts. Not only that, businesses have begun hopping on the DIY bandwagon too. For example, marketing agencies are seeing a decline in business as companies bring digital advertising, graphic design, and content teams in-house.[2] Succession planning is another area of operations where DIY may seem particularly enticing.

In this article we’ll walk you through what DIY succession planning looks like, explain what you’ll need to get started, and outline a few questions to consider. These will help you decide whether you want to do succession planning yourself, or whether you’d like to explore other options.

DIY Succession

When it comes to succession planning, many companies have traditionally gone the DIY route. This means that they haven’t outsourced the planning process or hired any third-party consultants along the way. However, what most companies consider “succession planning” isn’t succession planning at all. Less than one in four boards have a formal succession plan in place,[3] and most leaders mistakenly assume that all they need is to have a successor in mind. In reality, succession planning is far more than intuitive promotion or replacement hiring. Succession planning is a future-focused strategic process that involves an ongoing investment in employee development. Doing succession yourself means you’ll need the time and resources to establish and maintain these processes internally.

What You’ll Need

To build a succession planning process on your own, you’ll need a few things:

  • A Succession Advisory Team (SAT). SATs are the collection of people who devise, implement, and manage a company’s succession plan. SATs should include leaders and other employees in critical roles. Ideally, SATs will be made up of individuals with different experiences, perspectives, and demographics to represent the functional diversity in an organization. Check out our blog on creating a Succession Advisory Team for more detail.
  • An Understanding of Critical Roles. An understanding of the organization’s critical roles can help determine priorities and urgency when it comes to building a succession plan. Critical roles are those essential positions and essential people that your company needs to be effective and efficient. You will need to have a good understanding of your company’s organizational chart, as well as up-to-date position requirements and job descriptions for each role. This information will help you prioritize and streamline your succession planning efforts. Take a look at SIGMA’s At-a-Glance Org Chart and our Critical Roles Identification Questionnaire for more help on identifying critical roles.
  • A Talent Development Process. This is the most important component of the succession planning process, because it will allow your team to promote internally rather than hire externally. Talent development includes everything from formal coaching and company-sponsored education to on-the-job experience interacting with different stakeholders and working across departments. These experiences, however, cannot be doled out at random. They must be a part of an individual talent development plan and leaders will need to take the time to monitor and measure succession candidate’s progress. Talent development takes a significant investment of time and resources from the organization, but is essential to build strong talent pipelines.

Boiling it Down

In short, DIY succession should not look any different from a succession plan created by a third-party consultant. When done properly, any good succession plan will identify and develop succession candidates for each critical role in your organization. The difference is in how this process unfolds in a given organization:

DIY Succession

Things to Consider

To help you decide whether you have what you need to plan for succession internally, here is a short checklist:

  • My organization has a diverse team of executives, managers, and subject matter experts who would be willing and able to join a succession advisory team
  • We have a clear organizational chart and understand which roles are critical to the success of our business
  • My organization has an existing process for ongoing employee development, talent recognition, and leadership development
  • The need for succession is not urgent and we have time to establish a new process and make adjustments along the way
  • My team has the existing frameworks, tools, and templates needed to support and standardize the succession process, or has the means to draft such documents

If you were unable to check any of the above boxes, DIY succession planning may not be your best option. You will need a significant amount of time and effort to build the tools and understanding needed to plan for succession yourself. In this case, time and capacity can be saved by working with an experienced third-party who will bring an evidence-based methodology to your planning process.

We Can Help

If you’re a little overwhelmed at the thought of building a robust succession plan from scratch, you are not alone. SIGMA is here to help! Our Succession Planning Launch Series will allow your team to complete six months of work in just 2 half-day sessions. We deliver a custom 12-month succession plan for each of your organization’s critical roles and walk you through the implementation. We also support the process with templates, activities, and suggested timelines to ensure your succession plan will thrive.

Want to start small? No problem! You can register for one of SIGMA’s open-enrollment Succession Planning Certification Workshops. In these workshops we’ll introduce our six-step succession planning process and train you on how to scale it across your organization. For more tools and templates, check out our resources, download our Succession Planning Guide, or contact us below.


[1] Home ISD. (September 21st, 2019). The Most Important DIY Trends and Statistics You Need to Know (Updated for 2019). Home ISD. Retrieved from https://homeisd.com/diy-trends-and-statistics/.

[2] Handley, L. (March 4, 2019). Firms are taking more marketing functions in-house. Here’s why. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/04/firms-are-taking-more-marketing-functions-in-house-heres-why.html.

[3] Cloud, J., Matza, R., Plaut, T., Rosone, B. 2015. Business succession planning: Cultivating enduring value. Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/deloitte-private/us-dges-business-succession-planning-collection.pdf.