How to Create a Living Strategic Succession Plan

Chess move as symbol of great strategic planning and choices

The business world rewards both careful planning and spontaneous action. At the same time, conventional wisdom warns against both of these extremes. All of this seems contradictory. How is it that caution and risk both work to our benefit and our detriment? And how can we know which path to take?

Perhaps the solution to this conundrum lies in the balance. Planning or acting on impulse isn’t inherently good or bad, but going too far in one direction can leave you vulnerable. When it comes to promoting employees or shifting leadership roles, you need a system that integrates strategic oversight while also embracing the dynamics of your company’s landscape.

Let’s outline how you can go about creating this kind of living strategic succession plan.

Focus on the Big Picture

When developing a succession plan, it’s always good to start with the big picture in mind. What’s involved in this picture? Things like your vision, mission, various long-term goals, culture, and areas of your company you wish to maintain, do away with, or improve. With this broad view in mind, you can begin to formulate the types of roles, duties, and leadership qualities required to ensure your business’ continued success. This will help you begin to target those within your organization who might be a good fit for various roles.

Help Your People Grow

No matter how developed or limited your succession plan is, one thing remains constant: you will need good leaders to take over vital roles in your company. And good leaders don’t just fall from the sky; they must be developed and prepared to take on your company’s needs. Your living, breathing succession planning model should focus prominently on leadership training so your people are prepared to take on whatever sudden challenges might arise.

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Respond to the Data

Nothing is set in stone, and your succession plan shouldn’t be either. As you work on developing leaders within your organization, you might find that your regiment isn’t as effective or practical as you had hoped. Perhaps your training is too broad or too narrow. Maybe you’re not giving the right people the right amount of attention. Whatever the case may be, pay attention to how your programs are performing. If they’re not doing well, you must adjust your succession planning strategy accordingly. This might involve bringing in different coaches, hiring new recruits, or outsourcing some of your leadership training programs.

Anticipate Changes

The most important part of ensuring a flexible and effective succession plan is to always keep Murphy’s Law in mind: anything can happen, good or bad. Work with your succession planning team to envision “What If?” scenarios that capture possible changes in your industry, company, or leadership. You don’t want to become paranoid, of course, but the more aware you are of life’s uncertainties, the better prepared you’ll be to make necessary sudden changes with tact. In short, keep calm but look ahead.

Make Routine Updates

Finally, it’s not enough to merely anticipate potential changes. You must also react to the current moment, including any recent changes in your company culture, outlook, outcome, etc. To keep your succession plan alive and well, and to stay on top of these changes, revise it once a quarter or more. What has changed in those few months? What’s working? What’s not? And what will set up your organization for success in the short-term and the long-term?

Opportunity lies somewhere between chaos and order. Your succession plan should be thorough and strong, but also elastic enough to adapt to changes in your organization and the world at large. By finding this balance, you can maintain a steady flow of competent leaders who will bring your business into a bright future.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow.

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