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Succession Failure

Leaving succession planning until the last minute is likely to mean effective transferral of responsibility is not possible within the necessary time-frame. A forced, ill-informed or panicky decision could mean the business ends up in reluctant or unqualified hands. With Ford rumoured to be starting succession planning for CEO Alan Mulally, due to retire by 2014, and research showing two-thirds of companies do not have a CEO succession plan in place, are HRDs taking enough of an active role in king-making?

Simon Nash, HR director at law firm, Carey Olsen says nothing succeeds like succession…..So, all of a sudden, after a long summer, succession planning is back on the agenda. Who, for example, is going to replace the inspirational Alan Mulally as CEO of Ford? Closer to home, Barclays seems to have about four top jobs to fill. For that matter, who is going to replace Rowan Williams as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury?

Succession planning is not just an issue for the top roles in the largest global organisations. It is a truism that every single one of your staff, from top to bottom of the organisation, will retire, leave, get promoted or, to put it bluntly, die in post, at some point. The contingency of the employment relationship is the only certainty we can rely upon and should therefore be the one fact we can plan around.

Some organisations have adopted rather unique solutions to this problem. The British royal family has a succession plan that is simple, known to all potential candidates and devoid of any contentious assessment of competence. It does have the advantage though of a very long period of preparatory development. Many of us enjoy watching the succession arrangements for the role of commander in chief of the US Armed Forces in its quadrennial carnival of spin and spending. I doubt many of us would favour adopting either of these approaches in our more down-to-earth businesses.

Succession planning should be straightforward and, like many aspects of HR today, it can be a responsibility delegated to every manager in the organisation and supplemented with HR expertise.

The challenge to every manager in your business is simple - "Who in your team could do your job tomorrow if we needed them to?"

And if the answer is not at once forthcoming: "What are you going to do about it?"