Identifying Critical Roles

The First Step in the Succession Planning Process

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As industries evolve and markets shift, an organization’s resilience and growth largely depends on its ability to ensure leadership continuity through effective succession planning. When inevitable transitions in key positions arise, organizations often struggle to maintain stability through smooth succession. Most recognize the problem, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. If this mirrors your own organization’s situation, rest assured — we have insights and solutions tailored to address these very challenges.

SIGMA’s Critical Role Identification service is a definitive starting point for what can become a robust succession planning process for your organization. Taking this first step with our consultants provides clarity and direction for everyone involved in the succession planning process. By pinpointing roles that are crucial for succession planning, your organization will be able to effectively craft a succession planning strategy that aligns current talent with future objectives, ensuring sustained success and organizational resilience.

Our Process

At the core of our approach to identifying critical roles is the Critical Role Identification Questionnaire. This tool facilitates the evaluation of roles against a standard set of criteria, including:

  • the urgency of succession planning for each position.
  • the impact each role has on the organization.
  • the degree of skill specialization required for each role.
  • the internal and external talent available for each role.

The first step in identifying critical roles is to have organizational leaders complete the Critical Role Identification Questionnaire. Once completed, leaders are asked to participate in a Critical Roles Workshop, facilitated by one of SIGMA’s succession planning consultants. This workshop helps to prioritize the allocation of succession planning resources.

Based on the data provided by the Critical Role Identification Questionnaire and leader participation in the Critical Roles Workshop, SIGMA then helps your team to identify those roles that are likely to be vacant soon, have a significant impact on operations, require specialized skills, and may be difficult to recruit for — both internally and externally.

By the end of the workshop, your team will have a shortlist of critical roles to focus succession planning efforts on first.

Why Work With Us?

The process of identifying critical roles is pivotal in succession planning. With SIGMA’s guidance, you can confidently navigate the complexities of this task. We will help you:

  • Mitigate bias. Typically, organizations assign the task of identifying critical roles to a single human resource professional. This can lead to biases which can negatively impact decision-making. SIGMA employes a multi-faceted approach that gathers various perspectives and reduces the risk of individual biases. Working collaboratively, we champion informed, balanced decision-making.
  • Gain collaborative insights. Harnessing diverse viewpoints is key. SIGMA facilitates structured discussions that utilize collective knowledge, ensuring that every voice is valued and heard.
  • Simplify decisions. Particularly for expansive organizations, the sheer volume of roles to be considered can be overwhelming. Comparing a multitude of roles, especially across disparate but equally vital functions, poses a challenge when selecting a few to prioritize. SIGMA provides clear methodologies to prioritize roles, even across varied functions, ensuring clarity in decision-making.
  • Document the process. When laying the foundation for a succession plan, it’s critical to systematically record the decisions that are made. Neglecting this crucial step can lead to ambiguity later in the succession planning process, especially when trying to recall the rationale behind initial decisions or replicating and scaling the process. SIGMA guides organizations in capturing the essential details, ensuring transparency and consistency throughout the succession planning journey.
  • Unify objectives. Differing opinions and goals are natural, but they don’t have to lead to roadblocks. With SIGMA’s standardized processes, stakeholders find common ground, making decisions collaboratively and aligned with the organization’s vision.

The SIGMA Advantage

Choosing SIGMA isn’t just about picking important roles; it’s about embracing an approach steeped in decades of research, experience, and customization. The benefits of working with SIGMA to help your team identify critical roles include:

Data-Driven Methodology

Our tools, templates, and exercises don’t just standardize the process; they bring precision and clarity, underpinned by data.

Employee Engagement

Expertise and Experience

Utilize our team’s deep expertise in succession planning, honed by years of working across diverse industries and organizational structures.

Cultural Leaders

Customized Approach

No two organizations are the same. Our solutions are tailored to fit the unique needs, culture, and strategic objectives of each client.

Meet the Team


Erica Sutherland, Ph.D.

Senior Consultant & Executive Coach

Erica completed her Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational psychology at Western University. She is a Senior Consultant at SIGMA, where she delivers consulting services and Succession Planning solutions to clients. As a member of SIGMA’s executive coaching team, Erica works one-on-one with leaders to develop talent. She also brings her expertise in measurement and psychometrics to the R&D team, assisting with the development and validation of SIGMA’s many assessments.


Brittney Anderson, Ph.D.

Senior Consultant & Executive Coach

Brittney is a member of our coaching and consulting team. She brings her expertise in evidence-based practice to provide companies with leadership solutions that meet their needs. Primarily, Brittney helps her clients prepare for their future with succession planning and comprehensive leadership development programs. As an executive coach, she helps leaders hone their skills using a process-based approach to development.

Arieana Thompson, Ph.D.

Senior Consultant

Arieana is a senior leadership consultant. She believes in positively transforming the modern-day workplace through thought-provoking, evidence-based insights. Arieana is a subject matter expert in executive leadership, succession management, wellness cultures, and employee growth. In her work at SIGMA, she supports executive teams with succession planning and leadership development and assessment.


Glen Harrison is an organizational transformation consultant and succession planning expert. Over the course of his career, Glen has worked with one-third of the Fortune 500 list and with every level of government in Canada and the United States. Having worked with numerous clients to build robust succession plans from the ground up, Glen has extensive experience in the application of SIGMA’s products and services to help organizations realize their people potential.

If you’re not ready to begin identifying critical roles yet, SIGMA offers an array of resources and webinars that can help you prepare before you embark on the journey. These resources also provide a glimpse into our expertise and approach: