Talked about but often not carried out? 
Whats the definition of succession? 
Succession, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “the action or process of inheriting a title, office, property etc”. In business terms, it’s most likely to refer to the need for some kind of handover of power or preparation for an individual’s next career step. 
I’m confident that most people reading this will have experience of a manager that has seemingly been over promoted (commonly referred to as being promoted to a level of incompetence) and in this blog I want to explore a little about why this is so often the case. 
As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, I have personal experience of being promoted without having had any real development, and the difficulties that this brings not only for the newly promoted manager but also for those around them. I’ve also had first hand  
experience of being promoted after some very good development that continued long after accepting the position! 
How does it work in reality? 
In many businesses, there is often a seemingly natural route for an individual’s progression - you start off on the shop floor, work hard, put the hours in and eventually hey presto, you become a supervisor! And then after proving yourself in this role off you go to become a manager! In so many cases, it’s a high performing individual who gets promoted but this is also often done irrelevant of their actual ability to ‘manage’ and in particular to manage people. Sadly, when this approach is within an organisation which doesn’t actively practice succession planning, it so often leads to disaster, not only for the individual but often for the teams that they end up trying to manage!  
Different types of succession planning. 
I recently had the privilege of supporting a business going through significant change where they were focused on the transition of responsibility from the outgoing directors to the senior management team who were stepping up onto the Board of Directors (succession planning). In this example it was more about breaking down the roles and responsibilities of the outgoing directors and splitting them across the incoming directors, transposing the responsibilities into clear actions while utilising a Blue, Red, Amber, Green (BRAG) status for tracking how the transition was progressing. 
While this came with some significant challenges, the process was reasonably straightforward; the incoming directors were already operating in senior management roles therefore meaning the knowledge gap was easily bridged for them, and through regular ‘catch up meetings’ any gaps were filled with relative 
ease. When you start looking at succession planning under more normal circumstances where individuals are stepping up into management roles for the first time, a more complex approach is often required. 
First step is the identification of individuals with potential - what is their current skill set, what are the gaps in their knowledge and experience, and how do you bridge the gap in a timely manner? Ensuring that the individuals identified are ‘upskilled’ in a timely manner so they can take over the reins when needed is a considerable challenge. there is always the risk that once someone has knowledge that applies to a more senior job, but as they are unable to secure a promotion internally, they leave in pursuit of that higher level job elsewhere. Not everyone subscribes to Richard Branson’s theory of “train your people well enough that they can leave, treat them well enough so they do not want to leave”. 
Bringing it to life? 
With all this in mind, there is a clear need for businesses to have robust appraisal and 1-2-1 processes where managers can hold regular meetings to discuss not only individual’s performance quality, but also their personal development. Holding a formal annual review, where developmental targets are set and reviewed, helps to ensure employee engagement and demonstrates that progression is encouraged by management.. Depending on the business and the individuals concerned, there may be a requirement for a skills gap analysis to be carried out; this would then help to plot their development journey while ensuring that progress is being made in the improvement areas identified. 
Setting developmental targets through an appraisal process is still only part of the answer.There is still a requirement for the  
organisation to have some kind of development programme, whether this is based around formal training or internal mentoring, or maybe even a combination of the two. There must be some way for the individual to expand their knowledge while keeping them engaged with the company. It is also important that any development journey doesn’t feel like it will take forever; let’s face it none of us particularly like waiting too long for something we desire. 

Further consideration? 

There is also an additional consideration that I have had to personally manage in the past; this is when an individual believes that they are ready for ‘the next step’ but you are just not able to respond quickly enough and sadly they leave the business in pursuit of more senior roles. I guess you just have to be happy that you played a small part in them getting to the point where they believed in themselves to the degree where they felt they could and should make that move. 
Try not to blame the manager - you don’t always know whether they have been equipped for the role they have been promoted into. They are likely to be doing their best but may not have all the necessary skills immediately to hand. 
It’s not compulsory to have succession planning in place but it can certainly be advantageous for all concerned! 
Dave Bownes 
Haynes Oliver Limited 
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