“The business changes. The technology changes. The team changes. The team members change. The problem isn’t change, per se, because change is going to happen; the problem, rather, is the inability to cope with change when it comes.” – Kent Beck

Change is one of the only constants through time. In the context of the workplace, it’s inevitable that the people occupying leadership roles in any organization will be subject to change, and yet many organizations don’t devote sufficient attention or resources to preparing for the future.

One of the best ways to prepare for the future in an organization is by engaging in a succession planning process that will help to bridge the gap between an organization’s current bench of talent and their future needs. SIGMA offers robust and customized succession planning services that can meet the needs of your company.


What is Leadership Succession Planning?

Succession planning is a process that enables organizations to look ahead and prepare for the future in such a way that their vision for success can be achieved.

More specifically, succession planning is the proactive, long-term deelopment of a talented bench of professionals who are on track to be qualified candidates for a given role in a company. Succession planning involves identifying key roles in your organization, noting potential vacancies that could arise, understanding your pool of current candidates who could fill a role, and developing these candidates over time. This process requires clear role requirements and the evaluation of potential candidates against these requirements. Having an objective, robust, and customizable process in place can help companies prepare their candidates before they are ever needed.

Succession planning is often confused with “replacement hiring”, which is a different process whereby an individual is slated for eventual promotion. Replacement hiring does not necessarily include employee development and can leave other qualified candidates confused about their future in the organization, lowering morale and leading to attrition.


Why Leadership Succession Planning Matters

When a leader retires or leaves an organization, this has a ripple effect throughout the company and can create or exacerbate volatility. Succession planning can mitigate the impact of changes in staff and leadership as well as provide several additional benefits, including:


  • Leadership Diversity

Succession planning, when done in a structured, objective manner, reduces the inherent biases involved in replacement hiring and promotion. This can help to increase the diversity of an organization’s talent bench.


  • Improved Employee Development

A key part of succession planning is employee development following the identification of role requirements by subject matter experts. This provides a clear and focused employee development pathway that can be carried out internally or augmented by external consultants.


  • Enhanced Employee Retention

When employees understand the requirements of their roles and the context of organizational promotion and hiring decisions, they are more likely to be motivated to engage in employee development initiatives and seek out new opportunities for growth. This helps to create a virtuous circle whereby employees feel they are treated fairly, are more motivated and enthusiastic about the opportunities in their organization, and less likely to seek outside opportunities for advancement.


  • Greater Organizational Stability

Once an objective, and clear succession planning process is approved by a leadership team and put in place, the organization will benefit from greater stability. A transparent process results in a bench of qualified candidates from within the organization that can be used to ensure the stability of a leadership team.

In spite of these benefits, organizations frequently fail to implement a structured and objective succession planning process.


Why Organizations Fail to Implement Succession Planning Culture 

Effective succession planning requires the commitment of a company’s leadership team, starting with the CEO. If the CEO doesn’t recognize or emphasize the importance of succession planning, it’s unlikely that others in the company will devote the time and attention required to put a plan in place.

Some common reasons why CEOs may not value dedicating time to succession planning include:


  • worries that this long-range activity will detract from more urgent, day-to-day operations
  • the feeling that succession planning is subjective and intangible
  • inability to see the urgent and important need for succession planning in their company
  • concerns that enacting a full plan will be too time-consuming
  • lacking a clear path forward
  • the belief that succession planning is too expensive and has an unclear return-on-investment
  • the belief that they already have an identified successor for a given role (i.e., replacement planning)
  • hesitation to task their senior leadership team with this responsibility

Even when CEOs and leadership teams acknowledge the importance of succession planning, they find it challenging to devote time to this activity and may not know where to begin.


How to Get a Succession Planning Process Started 

Although it can seem daunting at first, succession planning doesn’t have to be overly time consuming or laborious if you can access the right information at the right time.

We offer a customized Succession Planning Launch Series that requires just 8 hours (spread across two half-day workshop sessions) to create a robust and objective succession plan for your organization in 30 days. We have also created many helpful resources including the Succession Planning Guide which you can download for free.


Work with Experienced Succession Planning Consultants

While you can do this work internally, SIGMA’s customized succession planning services can save you significant time and effort by providing you with a proven process, helping you to avoid common succession planning implementation mistakes, holding you accountable for meeting agreed-upon milestones throughout the process, and offering you an objective, structured process that will meet the needs of your organization.

Contact us to learn how we deliver a full-year Succession Implementation Plan for each member of your leadership team in just two half-day workshops.