Succession Planning Defined

Succession, Succession Planning, and Succession Management are all terms that get used frequently. But what is it? And why is it important to your organization?

Broadly, Succession Planning is “a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave”[1]. When done successfully, it helps to identify those employees who are capable of assuming leadership roles and developing them so they’re ready to move into these positions when they become available. Further, a good Succession Plan prepares for the roles previously held by new leaders, and helps younger or newer employees move through the ranks of the organization.

“Succession Planning is described as having the right people in the right place at the right time.”[2]

When organizations have an effective Succession Plan in place, they are able to fill open positions from within, with confidence, and without delay[3]. As a result, talented executives are more likely to stay because the organization demonstrates that it is committed to supporting the development of their people and provides employees with the resources they need to grow into new roles[4]. Succession means that future leaders know which advancement opportunities are available, and they are driven to achieve greater seniority by working towards organizational rather than individual objectives[5].  

Succession Planning helps businesses to retain valuable institutional knowledge, ensuring business continuity.

Succession Planning is a dynamic process – as organizational needs change, the Succession Process 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 organization4.

SIGMA’s Succession Planning Launch Series can help. This series offers a simple way for you to build a robust 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 Plan need to be improved. Is your company ready if someone unexpectedly leaves or retires? SIGMA has developed a way to help your company get ready. Contact us now!.


[1] Succession planning. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succession_planning on January 30th, 2019.

[2] Atwood, C. (2007). Succession planning basics. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

[3] Mahler, W. (1986). Succession planning handbook for the chief executive. Midland Park, NJ: Mahler Publishing Co.

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

[5] Carter, N.H. (1986). Guaranteeing management’s future through succession planning. Journal of Information Systems Management, 3, 13-24.