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Replacement Planning Versus Succession Planning

Ultimately, succession planning is a people-oriented process, from top to bottom.

January 8, 2002
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In recent years, succession planning has evolved in both scope and complexity.

Yet many organizations lag behind when it comes to implementing an effective succession plan. "They engage in replacement planning. They ask managers to fill out forms and suggest who should be promoted," says William C. Byham, CEO of consulting firm Development Dimensions International and author of Grow Your Own Leaders (DDI Press, 2001). Even worse, many businesses don't bother to use the list they have, thus alienating workers further.

Byham says that identifying top talent is usually the easy part. It's providing people with the skills and knowledge necessary to become leaders that presents a challenge. In order to develop future leaders, it's essential to inform the brightest and the best that they're in an "acceleration pool" and move them around within an organization to gain expertise and experience. "The fact that they're considered for future leadership can prove to be a huge motivation," he says.

And while software and systems are important elements in managing succession planning, they cannot fix underlying processes that are broken. Ultimately, succession planning -- Byham likes to refer to it as succession management -- is a people-oriented process, from top to bottom. It's up to senior executives to take "ownership," human resources to analyze and manage, and line managers to evaluate. Only then can an organization avoid tossing people into positions before they're ready.

Workforce, December 2001, p. 38 -- Subscribe Now!

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