Ask an FEI researcher about... succession planning.

Author:Graziano, Cheryl de Mesa
Position:Resources - Brief Article - Column

An FEI member asked about succession planning best practices and organizations that work with companies to develop the right successors.

"Succession Planning: Putting an Organization's Knowledge To Work," an article by Kevin Butler and Dona E. Roche-Tarry that appeared in the February 2002 issue of Nature Biotechnology, describes succession planning as an "ongoing, dynamic process that helps an organization to align its business goals and its human capital needs."

The authors say succession planning: addresses the needs of the organization as senior management ages; helps an organization prepare for an unexpected event; and ensures that an organization has the right personnel to function at peak efficiency.

Planning serves to create an organizational hierarchy and helps organizations conduct an inventory of human capital and better understand gaps, the authors say. They cite as an example the military, where succession is planned from the highest through the lowest levels. The article details four steps "that lead through design, development and implementation of the succession plan."

These include:

  1. Identify existing competencies, related to both its leadership needs and the industry.

  2. Evaluate and assess current employees to determine how they match up to organizational needs.

  3. Introduce coaching, mentoring, training and recruiting methods that match personnel requirements -- and future needs.

  4. Develop the actual plan.

The article is available through a search at

An article, "The Strategy of Succession Planning," by M. Dana Baldwin of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning (, provides questions to consider when implementing a succession plan. Among them:

* What is your company's long-term direction? Do you have an effective strategic plan guiding your course and direction?

* What key areas require continuity and development of the people resources within your company?

* Who are the key people you want to develop and nurture for the future?

* How does the concept of succession planning fit into your strategies? Are you concentrating efforts in areas where the returns will be highest?

* What career paths should your most talented people be following? Is each customized to fit the abilities and talents of the people involved?

Baldwin advises that company plans should be proactive, not reactive. People should be rotated into different areas for experience and training...

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