Succession Planning: How to Do it Right
Good leaders are hard to find, and even harder to replace—especially in the middle of a project. That’s why you should have a succession plan ready in the event you get sick or otherwise indisposed. A properly developed internal candidate will have a better chance of success than an external candidate who is dumped into the situation without any prior background on the project.
But succession plans are more than just a band-aid solution. One of the objectives of a true succession plan is to find a worthy permanent replacement, so that your projects and your team will be in good hands when you move on to other things.
Here are a few quick tips on how to execute a proper succession plan:
Have Clearly Defined Criteria
Don’t be vague in your search. Zero in on a few key qualities that your candidate must have, and be willing to compromise on the others. You’ll be picking from a list of internal candidates, so your options are limited. Also, make sure that your search for a suitable successor doesn’t turn into a political campaign.
Prioritize the skills that would be most beneficial as a leader and project manager. Certain projects will require a certain set of skills, and it is up to you to determine what skills would serve your succession candidate the best.
Grow, Don’t Appoint
It’s not enough to just point at a name on the list and say, “he/she can handle things.” As you well know, project management is a unique role, and being an excellent programmer, for example, doesn’t necessarily transfer well.
Remember, we’re implementing this succession plan well in advance of any foreseen need. Doing it so early gives you the opportunity to train your candidate and groom him for the role he will eventually fill.
Don’t Bet on One Horse
So you’ve been grooming one candidate for months now, training him and introducing him to clients. Except he quits. What now? All that work will have been wasted, and now you have no one to take over the role.
When you set up a succession plan, always have two or more candidates under review and training. This way, if your star candidate leaves you in the lurch, you won’t be caught flat-footed.
Do you have any other suggestions on how to properly execute a succession plan? Have you ever experienced a succession plan gone right or wrong? Share your war stories with us!
Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.