Succession Planning Is Not Replacement Planning

Succession Planning and Replacement Planning are not the same thing.  Replacement planning (i.e. search or recruiting) is but one piece of the overall succession planning process.  Developing a holistic succession planning strategy takes into account a broader range of factors than what a search process is designed for.  To illustrate, here are four key questions an intentional succession plan helps leaders think through.

What leadership transition process makes the most sense for your situation?

There are three basic categories transitions tend to fall under.  We refer to each as the Stop-n-Go, Intentional Interim and Overlap.  Each is a valid option, but used for different reasons.  Knowing the pro’s and con’s for each will help you make an informed decision in selecting the option that best fits your unique situation.

The process selected will have a significant impact on the replacement planning strategy.  Some candidates prefer to step into a Stop-n-Go while others are looking for an Overlap.  The process you select will impact how you develop your candidate profile and influence how you promote the opportunity.

What are the “nuts and bolts” of developing a succession planning strategy?

There are five critical areas every succession planning strategy needs to account for.  Ministries that account for these areas, on purpose or  on accident tend to have healthier leadership transitions.  Ministries that fail to account for these five areas, on purpose or on accident, tend to struggle.  Developing a plan that addresses each area (we refer to them as Signposts) impacts the overall health and effectiveness of your transition.  Replacement Planning is only one of the five areas.

There is a real temptation for organizations to jump prematurely to the Replacement Planning aspect of succession planning and neglect the other four areas.  Failure to account for all five Signposts is one of two critical issues related to poor transitions.  The second issue is tied to an organizations failure to think critically about the implications of the next question.

How prepared are we, from an organizational structure standpoint, to navigate a season of leadership transition?

It’s not uncommon for things that have no direct correlation to the succession planning strategy itself to become the thing that causes significant disruption.  For example, a lack of documentation in your governing documents can become the basis for confusion and possible division.  With appropriate planning there is no need to allow this, or other areas like it, to become a stumbling block.

How do we prepare and lead people through a season of significant leadership transition?

At its core, succession planning is about preparing the people impacted by the transition for what to expect.  Having an intentional strategy won’t alleviate every challenge, but will go a long way in helping those involved feel comfortable enough to invest in the process.  Investing in the development and implementation of a holistic succession planning strategy is one of the best ways to keep people engaged in the process and fight the tendency of taking a “wait and see” attitude.

It is hard to imagine how effective a replacement planning strategy can be without accounting for the questions listed above.  The answers to these questions, and others, have a profound impact on the function of a search team and/or search firm, the unique candidate profile that is developed and how the position is promoted.  The planning that comes from the broader succession conversation also informs the way a new leader is on-boarded into their role and shapes the way the transition is communicated to the broader organization.

If you are facing the reality of a leadership transition let me encourage you to start with the broader issue of succession planning and work from there.  You will have a more effective search process if you do.

In total, this series is three posts long.

Post 1 – Succession Planning Is Not Replacement Planning

Post 2 – Succession Planning Is a Shift In Stewardship

Post 3 – Succession Planning Is a Springboard for Leadership

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Click HERE to learn more about how we can help your team address the broader issue of succession planning.