21.10.2014 Feature Article

Planning Succession

Planning Succession
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Truly visionary organizations focus on building value chains that are resilient and robust enough to wade through phases of disruptions within the business environment. It is not unusual to come across limited liability concerns, or what other jurisdiction may refer to as, corporations, operate for over a century, having evolved overtime in terms of scale, market focus and business model. Through it all, the core essence of many such organizations; the brand promise, remain intact, buried deep within the soul of its mission and core values. Evolving overtime and still remaining true to character has been described by many business thinkers and academic researchers, as one of the critical success factors required for enterprise sustainability. Succession planning is a key risk management tool for managing the uncertainties associated with changes; changes in the business model, executive teams, business environment and many more. Effective succession planning may even help to manage disruptions associated with force majeure circumstances that a business may encounter.

Thinking Through
Succession planning is a broad area of practice and therefore has many components. In my experience as a management consultant, I have engaged management teams from across various sectors, usually within the SME category, who affirm their commitment to succession planning without the assurance of having systematic arrangements in place to manage succession risks. This has led me to develop a dual thesis on succession planning as a way to distinguish between growth-oriented companies and vulnerable enterprises. The former rely on formal systems while the latter have no clear systems and structures in that regard. The distinction is important because formal arrangements serve as proxy indicator for a company's readiness and cultural disposition to manage operational gaps borne out of poor talent scheduling, which to all intents and purposes, is succession planning at the operational level. Some business organizations may refer to the operational aspect as Business Continuity Planning (BCP). The differences in jargon notwithstanding, to the extent that unplanned disruptions to business operations may necessitate human resource changes and role adjustments, then succession planning is the name of the game whether one calls it succession planning or business continuity. The second reason why this distinction is important is that, return on investments in coaching and training programs can only be optimized within the broader context of a corporate succession policy. This is because, in and of itself, corporate cultures that uses succession policy frameworks to drive training programs contribute to general levels of employee motivation and engagement. The longer employees and management talents stay, the longer time horizon to derive value from their contribution.

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