Succession Planning

by Martin Haworth

Step 3 – where are you vulnerable?

Now you’ve got a precise vision of what good will look like in the future, it’s vital to consider where there might be challenges.

With a view of any structural adjustments needed, especially where you have a large team, you can start to get a better understanding of the weaknesses in your current team. Here, you need to consider

  • Where you have a current gap or you know you will have gaps
  • Where are your most vital roles
  • Where you have frustrated ‘bubbling-unders’
  • Where you have people in roles they do not suit.

An awareness of the vulnerabilities creates an awareness of the possibilities you have available to help you move forward.

If your vision is your driving force, then you can use it to assess where you are weak and/or exposed. You will undoubtedly now recognise that this is a task you must grasp if you want success for yourself and your team.

Although key managers, top salespeople, excellent administrative employees, great innovators and first-class technicians might come top of many lists, there really are more of these roles around than you might initially think.

Knowing where you are vulnerable is a critical point in succession planning, because it prepares you in advance for those tricky points at which things are likely to go wrong.

There will be other hints of vulnerability too, if you are focused enough to notice them, which will encourage pace and action as you progress. Take, for example, those people you find you have to spend more time hand-holding, those whose pieces of work frequently need to be redone, and the fire-fighting that happens regularly and that could be avoided. These are clues that add into the mix of the vulnerable links in the chain (we take a further look at performance issues in Where are you right now?).

And there are other, often unexpected, areas or roles that you might not initially view as potential vulnerabilities in your team – areas that you could easily overlook but that could have a considerable impact.

The role of the cook

Your team might expect to have hot food available. When a great cook leaves, they will be demotivated and less content.

So, although the role of ‘cook’ may not be at the top of your list of vulnerabilities, you might be surprised at the impact their loss could have...

Having this focus enables managers to quickly identify and immediately begin to consider ‘what-if’ scenarios:

  • Your brain starts to absorb and process the whole concept of where your challenges lie
  • Some activities can be started that will help you to prepare to meet challenges as and when they occur
  • You start to get mobilised with pace and focused attention.

Step three activities

  • Take a look at your team and identify which roles appear to be most vulnerable.
  • Be prepared to dig deeper to analyse what would happen if any member of your team left – immediately, even.
  • Once you are clear on these in your own mind, ask around – who do others think is critical around here?
  • What issues do key people have, such as long-term or regular absence, family problems or potential departures?

Along with considering the areas where you are most vulnerable in terms of the personnel you have, you also need to be clear on the performance you currently deliver. Measuring this against where you want to be is vital, so the next stage in your succession planning process is to assess where you are right now.