SIGMA’s Succession Planning Guide: A Framework for Business Succession Planning

The loss of core talent can have a critical effect on an organization. With our expertise in leadership assessments, we have combined our knowledge and industry skills to develop a strategic and simple to use succession planning guide for your organization. SIGMA’s guide to succession planning has been designed to develop a straightforward process that identifies internal succession candidates to replenish existing talent when it exits the organization through SIGMA’s 6-stage succession cycle to:

  1. identify critical positions within the organization
  2. build leader success profiles
  3. nominate high potential talent as succession candidates
  4. assess talent development needs
  5. develop internal talent
  6. measure your organization’s progress

The succession planning guide provides templates to assist you through each stage of succession planning.

What’s Included in the Succession Planning Guide?

SIGMA’s Succession Template Guide along with our Succession Planning Webinar leads organizations through our Simple Succession Planning Process with useful templates that address each stage of our Succession Planning Process including:

1. Identifying Critical Leadership Roles Within Your Organization

It is important to take a measured approach when introducing Succession Planning into an organization for the first time. The first step is to identify which key positions your organization should target based on urgency and how critical the role is to the business. Use the Critical Roles Identification Worksheet to identify the key positions that your organization should target in your succession program.

Succession planning template critical role identification questionnaire

To identify the critical positions for succession planning in your organization follow the following steps

  • list your direct reports
  • rate each direct report on
    • readiness to move into the critical role
    • their plan to remain with the organization
    • the availability of successors for their role, should the succession candidate leave or be promoted
  • when evaluating a succession candidates plan to remain with the company, consider their eligibility to retire as well as the potential risk that they will seek opportunities elsewhere
  • begin with your team, but a good succession plan will scale this exercise out to multiple teams and levels
  • print and complete one critical roles worksheet per key position

2. Building Success Profiles

We define the talent composition required for success by incorporating present and future needs to provide the target that we’ll aim for when selecting succession candidates and developing future leaders.

Use the Build Success Profiles Worksheet to describe the talent required in each critical role, both in the present and future for your organization. Begin by including basic demographic information on the critical role. You can use the job description to list position criteria such as:

Success profile template for succession planning
Succession Success Profile Template
  • education required
  • skills needed
  • duties to be aware of

use the worksheet to develop the success profile by considering:

  • skills commonly needed for success in the senior management team
  • anticipated future requirements for all senior leaders
  • specific characteristics needed for the focal role
  • potential skill requirements for this role in the future
  • emotional intelligence or other important personal characteristics

To ensure complete and accurate success profiles make sure you use validated measures for evaluation.

3. Nominating Successors

A formal process adds much-needed credibility and transparency to combat perceptions of favoritism. 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. A well maintained Succession Bench is also a great way to measure the success of your Succession Plan.

Evaluate the succession candidates for each create role using the Succession Nomination Survey. Begin by indicating the name of the candidate and the critical position they are considered for. For each succession candidate, rate your confidence in their potential performance for this role. Provide an estimated timeline until the succession candidate is fully ready to take on the critical role.

Succession Candidate Nomination Form
Successor Nomination Form

It is important to gather ratings for the succession candidates from multiple sources. These sources include:

  • the current role incumbent
  • the senior management and succession advisory teams
  • leaders, peers and direct reports of the succession candidate

To add context to your evaluation of the succession candidate provide additional information on the potential successor and their skills along with their ratings. Be sure to complete the Succession Nomination Survey for each succession candidate.

Continue to track the readiness of each succession candidate through the Succession Bench Worksheet. First, indicate incumbent and urgency information for the key position and list succession candidates according to three levels:

Succession Bench Worksheet for Succession Planning

  • Level A: Succession candidates ready for role in less than 3 years
  • Level B: Succession candidates ready for role in 3 to 5 years
  • Level C: Potential successors ready for role in more than 5 years

Provide the name and demographics for each succession candidate and record their talent development providing the dates spent at each development level. Use the Succession Bench Worksheet to track overall strength of your succession bench as well as to monitor the individual candidate’s progress over time.

4. Assessing Succession Candidates Development Needs

There is an opportunity to add objectivity through scientifically validated leadership assessments. The assessments do not take the place of the candidate’s history and experience, but add a unique perspective at an incredible level of depth. It is important to incorporate an objective assessment to measure the talent profile of each succession candidate and to identify gaps that can be targeted through talent development.

Build Sucession Profiles for Succession Planning

Use the Succession Profile Worksheet to:

  • indicate target position information
  • report succession candidate demographics, education, and experience
  • provide position criteria gathered in the Success Profile
  • use validated assessments to evaluate the succession candidate on qualities required for the target role, as indicated in the Success Profile
  • list notable gaps between current candidate skills and those required for the target position in each category
  • use this worksheet to identify priorities for candidate growth and talent development opportunities

5. Developing Talent

You now need to follow up on the assessment phase by creating a talent development plan that will help potential successors fill in the gaps in their skills and experience, and progress into readiness for their future roles.  Individual talent development plans are managed for each succession candidate, and recommended and completed development activities are tracked. At a minimum, create an individual talent development plan for all your high-potential succession candidates.

The Development Plan Worksheet allows you to create individual development plans for succession candidates and track their progress. Begin by providing information on the succession candidate and their current role in the organization. List all the positions that an individual may be a candidate for. Next, choose the top development areas from the Success Profile and rank the candidate’s development opportunities based on two criteria:

Development Activities Worksheet for the Individual Development Template by SIGMA Assessment Systems

  • What are the largest gaps between role requirements and the succession candidates abilities?
  • What are the most important or frequently used skills of the role?

Work with the succession candidate to create their individual development plan and mutually decide which areas of talent development to focus on in the short, medium and long-term. It is important to create measurable goals with action plans and deadlines for each area of talent development and keep detailed progress notes on the candidate’s successes and setbacks.

Talent Development Activities Worksheet for Succession Planning

Specify and track the talent development activities of each succession candidate with the Development Activities Worksheet. The simple steps include:

  • fill in succession candidate’s current information
  • list each position the succession candidate is considered for
  • work together with the candidate to create a list of available talent development activities or opportunities
  • be sure to prioritize based on individual talent development plan
  • try to provide a range of opportunity types to ensure the succession candidate receives well-rounded training
  • track development activities that are completed, in progress, or recommended for future talent development

6. Measuring Success

Tracking measurable progress indicators and regularly sharing the results with key stakeholders demonstrates the value of your succession plan and
keeps its importance top of mind. If you set and communicate reasonable expectations from the beginning, in time you’ll be able to show year-over-year progress. Set a calendar reminder to review, compare, and communicate progress 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.

Review your succession program outcomes across important indicators with the Talent Progress Scorecard. This scorecard allows you to choose organization-specific indicators of the success of your program by looking for a way to add objective value through impactful metrics for your succession plan, including:

  • money saved
  • time delays prevented
  • improvements to existing HR processes

Update the Talent Progress Scorecard every six months (at minimum) using information from other worksheets previously mentioned. Use the scorecard to communicate success to senior leadership, succession candidates, and the organization as a whole.

Succession Planning Checklist

Whether you believe you have Succession Planning under control or that your Succession Planning is on life support, the following Succession Planning Checklist is a quick measure of the maturity level of your Succession Planning and what areas need to be improved, including:

  • Executive Support
  • Process
  • Communication
  • Documentation
  • Accountability
  • The Long Game

Is your Succession Plan Set Up for Success?

Answer the following questions to see how your organization’s succession plan stacks up.

Executive Support

  • Is your Succession Planning initiative supported by your CEO? 
  • Is Succession supported by the entire leadership team?


  •  Is your Succession Plan formally documented? 
  • Does the leadership team review the Succession Plan (at least) annually? 
  • Is your Succession Plan updated (at least) annually? 

Does your Succession Plan include: 

  • …detailed Success Profiles for each leadership role? 
  • …populated Succession Benches for each leadership profile? 
  • …Successor Profiles for each Succession Candidate? 
  • Development plans for each Succession Candidate? 
  • …Documented metrics to gauge the success of your plan? 


  • Do you use a proven Succession Process? 
  • Is that process easy to understand? 
  • Are you confident in your ability to explain the process at all levels of the organization? 


  • Does your plan include detailed timelines and deliverables? 
  • Do you have a process in place to hold participants accountable? 
  • Do you have a scheduled annual review that includes your entire leadership team?


Are you constantly communicating the plan to…? 

  • The board (if applicable) 
  • Management 
  • Individual Succession Candidates 
  • All members of the organization 
  • Do you have formal conversations with leadership on their plans for retirement? 
  • Are leaders prepared to have candid discussions with their team regarding each candidate’s readiness? 
  • Do leaders have the right tools to support development discussions with their successors? 

The Long Game

  • Is the Succession Plan aligned with the organization’s long-term Strategic Plan? 
  • Is there a plan in place for multiple levels of the organization (ie., not just the CEO)? 
  • Are recruitment, hiring, and talent development aligned with your Succession Plan? 
  • Are Succession Profiles built with the future in mind? 
  • Are you focused on developing pools of talent for each role vs. identifying one successor? 

Start Your Succession Planning with Our Succession Planning Guide & Templates

Begin working towards an internal succession plan for your organization or business using SIGMA’s succession planning guide. Download the free guide today and start planning for the future to ensure your organizations leadership is positioned for success. To get more from this succession planning guide, watch our complimentary Succession Planning Webinar.

Download Succession Planning Guide - Sigma Asssessment Systems

Contact us to learn more about how our Succession Planning Launch Series  delivers a CUSTOM SUCCESSION PLAN in 30 DAYS while requiring less than 8 hours (2 half-day sessions) from your leadership team.