5 Simple Succession Planning Questions and A Good Lesson from Apple
Succession planning at the CEO-level and beyond is serious business. In a public letter to Apple's board resigning as chief executive, Steve Jobs wrote "I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple."
Jobs first announced he would be taking a health-related leave of absence in January, then reappeared in March to present iPad 2, and later returned to the stage at the company's worldwide developer conference in June to outline the company's plans for Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and new iCloud online services.
While still actively involved in decision making at Apple on a reduced scale, Jobs' leave of absence throughout eight months of 2011 appears to have been calculated to serve as a smooth transition of executive power to Cook, who presided over the company's shareholder meeting in February and has handled the company's quarterly conference calls with analysts, albeit without the same flare and character as Jobs.
The consequences of failing to plan for the successor for the CEO may be obvious, and as most companies have recognized, they cannot afford to fail in this responsibility. Middle management levels, how-ever, are often overlooked, with disastrous consequences.
Look around your office and ask yourself these quesitons:
1. How many of the people doing middle management work are 50 or over?
2. How long will they be with you?
3. Who will replace them?
4. How will you identify the replacements?
5. What will you need to do to prepare them?
An assessment and development program put in place now, may head off a real crisis in leadership five years down the road. Mentoring programs, using senior workers to help bring newer workers up to higher levels in skill and responsibility, are increasingly popular, but mentors must be carefully selected and trained in the art of mentoring.
Recognizing this complex set of challenges, some organizations have begun to systematically identify their “non-core competencies,” looking for areas where they can profitably out- source some of their business needs, allowing them to focus on retention, skill development and succession planning in the areas which are their core competencies, those areas giving them their unique competitive advantage.
One or more of these approaches may be right for your business. Change is coming, ready or not!