The Process of Creating a Succession Plan
The key areas we will look at in this section will support and guide you in creating your succession plan. There are some task focused areas and some points to discuss and think about:
- The role of a selecting committee
- Use of the Constitution
- Recognizing service
- Risks of not engaging in succession planning
- The benefits revisited
A good starting point for successful succession planning is to start analyzing your organization’s strengths and identifying areas for improvement. An analysis will help you to explore: ‘where are we now and where we want to be.’ This big picture analysis is best looked at as a team/decision making body.
There are a number of questions that can assist you in identifying your organization’s strengths and weaknesses:
- What/who has brought the organization to its current place?
- H ow is the organization perceived by internal and external members?
- What skills and knowledge were needed?
- Is the organizational knowledge embedded in the system processes or is it owned by a specific member?
- What does the future look like for the organization?
- What skills are needed for this?
- Does the necessary talent currently exist in the leadership team?
- Are there existing volunteers who can play a role?
- Does the organization need to recruit talent?
- How does/can the organization build and retain talent?
The answers to these questions are a good starting point for organizing your succession plan. In your discussions further conversations may arise regarding:
- the priority of roles and tasks within an organization
- communication strategies
- necessary recruitment strategies
- training or learning development programmes
- the need for a knowledge management system
- a defined hand over process
These conversations can lead to decisions that will develop into your organization’s succession plan.
Example - Succession planning as seen by the MOs
Managing Succession Planning:
Advertising - We encourage board members and staff to consider succession planning as early as possible in the term.
- We have introduced the possibility for terms to be extended by one year, so there is some overlap between the person leaving and the new person starting. The previous person can then induct the new person.
“Resource Persons” – these are positions available for people who want to get involved without taking on a full term. They have to be elected for a specific mission such as being part of an event planning team. These positions are ideal for those who want limited commitment but can also help take on some work. It also gives the possibility to gradually involve people who are afraid to start straight away with a “heavy job”, and afterwards they can become more involved.
- Starts with the recruitment procedure. Any organization must choose its priorities when picking a potential staff member. Their job description should clearly lay out the qualities that the candidate must have what they need to have, and what the organization would like them to have.
- Use this job description to select profiles and explain clearly the work load, and the requirements of the function.
- There are “procedures” and “manuals” to help people get started in their function.
Examples - Examples from the Guides Catholiques du Beligique and the Girl Guides of Australia
1. Responsible and Involved Parties
- Each person is responsible for their own succession
- The whole team is involved in identifying potential candidates – as are the people that previously held the position (for example, a new candidate or potential International Commissioner will meet one or two previous international commissioners to discuss the role).
Making sure that people think about succession planning before it is too late. You need to have a structure and plan in place to do it well.
We are currently inducting a new candidate for International Commissioner – she has met three former International Commissioners, has been informed through the job description and accepted the task. She has accepted under the condition that she can contact us when she needs to (and might join the training for new national board members).
The above process has just been carried out for the new President (and was also done for the previous one, which had been a candidate but wasn’t elected by the National Assembly). Our process made it possible to identify a new candidate within a short term and go for an election after a short period of time.
As you create your plan remind yourself of the key benefits of succession planning:
Leadership → Continuity → Stability
- Develops leadership within the organization
- Improves support to leaders throughout their employment
- Focuses on leadership continuity and improves knowledge sharing
- Counters the increasing difficulty of recruiting leaders externally
- Develops talent and long-term growth
- Creates the link from now into the future
- Meets the development requirements of existing (and potential future) positions
- Provides more effective monitoring and tracking of competence levels and skill gaps
- Brings in new ideas and talent
- Develops people within the organization
- Improves commitment and therefore retention
- Works towards continuity of policy and operations
- Increases stability of the organization
- Improves staff motivation and morality
- Ensures ongoing growth and survival of the organization
The Role of the Selecting Committee
In many organizations, it is the role of Human Resources to ensure succession planning. However, it is vital that any leadership team also takes ownership of their succession planning process to ensure its implementation and ongoing success.
The selecting committee can support you in the following ways:
- Determining what roles and skills are critical for the growth of the organization
- Carrying out a Risk Management Analysis for these critical roles
- including both the probability of the risk and the seriousness of the consequences for each risk
- Analyzing and addressing the gaps revealed by the succession planning process
- Identifying and understanding the developmental needs of volunteers to fill those positions
- Help to ensure volunteers are sourced, selected and elected
- Ensuring that all key volunteers understand their roles and responsibilities
- Enriching succession plans through regular discussions within the National Board
- Creating a team that is responsible for spotting talent within the organization
- Identifying top performers in all the committees and making sure that they are engaged and satisfied to stay with the organization
- Continually reviewing and checking the process of succession and whether planned individual development has taken place
- Discussing frequently expectations and future plans for the key roles, including their motivation and emotions for the changes ahead.
- Making it a point to discuss the constitution regarding succession and the procedures of electing and appointing key positions
Have a conversation with your selecting committee to see how they can support you in creating your succession planning process.
Use of a Constitution in Succession Planning
A constitution with clearly defined roles and terms of reference is a useful tool in succession planning. When used effectively, individuals within the Association are expected to respect the terms of reference, which would allow other people to transition into certain positions. A constitution should define the process of the selection of candidates for different posts. Recruitment of individuals needs to result from a true democratic process where every leader has the opportunity to serve the organization based on the skills they have.
“a set of fundamental principles or established precedents regarding how an organization is governed.”
Terms of Reference…
“describe the purpose and structure of a role, project, committee, meeting, negotiation, or any similar collection of people who have agreed to work together to accomplish a shared goal.”
The process of creating a succession planning strategy for a national board, a regional or local committee, a task group or career staff, are almost the same. However, there are special challenges in merged and mixed associations who have an unbalanced diversity of boys and girls, or an imbalance in the number of female or male leaders compared to the ratio between boys and girls as members.
In associations with Girl Guides, Girl Scouts and Scouts there is often a co-chairing policy, so all important groups are led by both a female and a male chairman. The principle of co-chairing (with either a man and a woman or two women) has several strengths.
- The chairman has a peer for discussions of important and difficult questions and issues
- There is a responsible person available during holidays or other periods of absence
- There is always a substitute ready for taking over a project or decision-making
- In positions needing a 24-hour alarm service, this could be serviced by more than one person taking turns
- Rotation of the same people in different positions
In order to adjust to rapidly changing times and busy lives, some organizations revise their constitutions so that they:
- Reduce the number of years that people serve and allow for overlap
- Organize the work into projects that allows people to take on smaller projects and dip in and out
Succession planning is not only about ensuring that the right people are recruited and retained in the organization. It is also concerned with giving positive recognition, and providing opportunities to individuals and groups for development and change.
It is essential to create a positive atmosphere of recognition, appraisal, motivation, learning, opportunity and fun. Lack of recognition may affect the leaders’ motivation. We need to have achievable tasks and jobs that measure results and appreciate people in different ways for the job that they have done.
Departures from the Association can facilitate one’s future involvement in the association whether it be through occasional contributions or perhaps even through a return to the association after some period of absence. Acknowledging the contribution of individuals to an organization is an important part of succession planning and good practice generally in organizations.
Recognising work and involving people at different levels in your Association is important because:
- Some people do not want to step forward and propose themselves, so they wait for others to nominate them
- Others do not want to nominate a competent leader, if they are afraid that this can cause leader gaps in their own unit
- Some people are afraid of proposing ideas, if it could mean they are asked to carry out the task themselves
- If the suggested ideas or people are not being used for some time, those people can become discouraged or lose interest
Here are some of the key issues the National Board/National Executive should consider while developing a succession plan:
❏ Strategic plans and future goals
❏ Volunteer requirement
❏ Knowledge retention
❏ Communication policies
❏ Critical roles
❏ Talent management strategies
❏ Risk assessment on critical roles
Over to you
- Where and how have you been given opportunities to impact the decisions and life of your organization?
- Have you been instrumental in identifying and encouraging others for positions?
- Have you been forwarding suggestions to your organization to be taken into consideration by your decision-making body?