Confused business man seeks a solution to the labyrinthSuccession planning is an essential part of sustainable business practices, but only a minority of businesses actually have an active succession plan.  Even a business with a succession plan may not have all their ducks in a row.  So, whether you are working on your current succession plan or building one from scratch, here are give common succession planning mistakes to avoid.

  1. Not Having a Timeline:  Giving your succession plan a detailed timeline is essential to its success.  Vague and changeable milestones (e.g., once we reach a particular portfolio goal) can delay succession planning progress.  Specific dates should be attached to succession plan milestones.  For example, John will have completed his Canadian Securities Course by March 31, 2015.  Having a target date in mind creates a sense of urgency that may just motivate the team to stay on track.  It is also important to give adequate time to the succession planning process.  While it is true that any preparation is better than no preparation, your successor may need anywhere from a few months to a few years to be adequately prepared to assume all responsibilities associated with a new job position.
  2. Ignoring the Future of Your Industry:  By the time your succession process is complete, will your successor have the skills necessary to compete in that future industry?  New technologies, new linguistic requirements, new trends, organizational growth – there are many factors that could influence a job’s future landscape.  Projected job requirements are an excellent addition to succession plans because it prepares the successor in the context of the organization’s strategic outlook.
  3. Having No Structured Development Plan:  A successor may shadow an outgoing employee to become familiar with a job, but he/she may not fully develop the skills necessary for actually performing the job.  To ensure that a successor is prepared for the new position, it is essential that a successor has a plan to tackle specific skills according to a pre-determined schedule.  With a plan in place, the successor can develop progressive skills with “building block” approach – building upon previous skills to develop further skills and expertise.
  4. Forgetting about Corporate Strategy/Goals:  Since a succession plan for an individual position requires a micro-focus, it is easy to forget that the job position exists to support an organization’s success.  Involving senior management and relevant supervisors in the succession planning process ensures that the process aligns with the overall corporate vision.  The point is to prepare the successor to assume a role that continues to fill the organization’s direct and indirect needs.
  5. Avoiding Ch-ch-changes:  A good succession plan adapts to changes in the organization (e.g., economic shifts, increased industry regulations, shifting strategic objectives, personnel changes).  If a five year succession plan was never reviewed for relevance to the company at any time, the resulting successor may have been trained in areas that are no longer relevant to the organization or the job position.  It is therefore important that the succession plan remains aligned with corporate strategy and goals.