SIGMA’s 6-Step Succession Planning Process

The succession planning process is dynamic – as organizational needs change, the succession plan must evolve as well. It is important to consider how employee aspirations and talents can be aligned with the internal and external environment of the organization [1]. Robust succession management provides a roadmap for success, ensuring the necessary structure to support effective, efficient, and consistent communication and implementation throughout all levels of the organization.

Our Sample Succession Planning Process below provides a high-level overview of what is required at each stage of the process along with some helpful succession planning tools to get you started.

Sample Succession Planning Process



1. Identify Critical Roles

There is no shortage of leadership roles that would benefit from proper talent assessment.  However, it is critical to take a measured approach when introducing succession planning into an organization for the first time.  With this in mind, the first step in the succession planning process is to identify those key roles your organization should target based on urgency and importance to the business operations. These roles are called “Critical Roles.” Try using SIGMA’s Critical Role Identification Questionnaire below to help you identify which roles are critical for succession planning in your organization.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Critical Role Identification Questionnaire


2. Build Success Profile

Once you’ve narrowed the need to your most critical positions, you can then focus on understanding the requirements of each role. At this step of the succession planning process, we define the talent composition required for success by incorporating present and future organizational needs. This step will provide you with information on the knowledge, skills, and abilities you should consider for each key role when selecting and developing future leaders. These roles are called “Critical Roles.” Try using SIGMA’s Critical Role Identification Questionnaire below to help you identify which roles are critical for succession planning in your organization.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Success Profile, Leadership Skills Profile – Revised, MEIA-W-R


3. Nominate Successors

Once you have developed an understanding of which competencies are important for success in a critical role, we can begin to nominate potential succession candidates for this position. Results from the nomination survey are used to populate a draft Succession Bench that groups successors based on their readiness and provides an ‘eye-test’ measure of bench strength for the incumbent’s role.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Succession Nomination Survey, Succession Bench Summary


4. Assess Development Needs

The nomination survey is only the first step in evaluating your bench strength.  There is an incredible opportunity at this stage in the process of succession planning to add objectivity through scientifically validated leadership assessments.  Talent assessments do not replace an evaluation of the succession candidate’s history and experience, but rather, they add an objective perspective to understanding candidate strengths and development opportunities. All succession plans should incorporate scientifically-validated assessments to better understand each candidate’s readiness for future roles.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Candidate Profile, Leadership Skills Profile – Revised,  MEIA-W-R


5. Develop Talent

After assessing talent and identifying development needs, it’s time to create a development plan. These plans should be individually customized for each succession candidate and are designed to help candidates close gaps in their skills and/or experience. This will help them progress in their readiness to fill future roles in the company.

Creating talent development plans is the brunt of succession planning. This is where the work comes in, as we manage individual talent development plans, and track completed activities. SIGMA recommends creating a development plan for, at a minimum, all your high-potential succession candidates. In a perfect world, you would have talent development plans in place for your entire Succession Bench. Check out the templates below for helpful tools on creating and tracking development.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Development Plan, Development Activities Tracker, Executive Coaching


6. Measure Progress

Tracking measurable progress indicators and regularly sharing the results with key stakeholders demonstrates the value of your succession plan and keeps its importance on top of mind. Get started by looking at which metrics can be easily measured in your organization. Record the numbers from these metrics when you begin the succession planing process and revisit them regularly. Set a calendar reminder to review, compare and communicate progress of the plan every six months. Even if you only track one metric, get in the habit of recording it, attaching a dollar value if possible, and conveying that to your stakeholders. You can use the Talent Progress Scorecard below to help you organize your progress.

TOOLS/TEMPLATES: Talent Progress Scorecard


Begin the Succession Planning Process

SIGMA’s Succession Planning Launch Series can help. The Succession Planning Launch Series offers a simple way for you to build a robust succession planning process to ensure your organization’s leadership is positioned for success and prepared for the unknown.

To get started, complete our quick Succession Planning Checklist to measure the maturity level of your succession process and discover which areas within your succession plan need to be improved.



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[1] Clutterbuck, D., & Goldsmith, M. (2012). The talent wave: Why succession planning fails and what to do about it. Philadelphia, PA: Kogan Page Limited.




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