ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

December 1998

Once Around The Block

A Better Place To Live

Chevron Fuels-Up For The Future

Imagine What Creativity Can Lead To

Lessons Learned At The Water Cooler

by Maryann Brennan
Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

The Quality Tool I Never Use

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Book Review

Views For A Change

Jim Harrington answers:
The most successful succession planning I have seen is when a powerful General develops a plan to overthrow the current President of a country. I hope that this is not the type of succession planning that you are interested in at Nestle.

Organizations that are truly interested in effective succession planning start with career planning at all levels of the organization. This allows for a continuous flow of talented people that can be considered for each promotion. At the executive level there should always be a minimum of three people being groomed to compete for each assignment.

Career planning and succession planning go together like bread and butter with career planning being the bread and succession planning the butter. The combination is great; however, eating bread alone is pretty dry and eating butter alone will make you sick.
You want me to provide you with a step-by-step plan for succession planning and AQP wants me to do this in 800 words or less. That represents a real challenge so I must keep my answer to your question at a very high level.

Step 1
Develop a career planning procedure that will be applied to each employee. Each career plan should be updated at least once a year. The employee should be the one who defines the assignment that he or she would like to retire from. The manager works with the employee as a mentor explaining what skills, education and work commitment are required to be competitive for the specific desired assignment. The manager provides the realism test that keeps everyone from saying that they want to be president of the organization. The manager then works with the employee to help define what the next two or three moves would be in order to prepare the employee to be competitive for his or her ultimate assignment. Together the manager and employee will also define what outside activities (school, professional association, leadership position, teaching, etc.) the employee needs to undertake during the coming year to prepare for his or her long-term objectives or to be more competitive for the next step in the career plan.

Step 2
A set of career tracks should be defined that leads the employee through the organizational structure.

Step 3
Position descriptions should be prepared that define each job, the prerequisites and the desired talents and background related to each assignment on the career track (ladder).

Step 4
All managers should be trained on how to do career counseling and how to use the career tracks and the position descriptions.

Step 5
Once a year the career plan is prepared or updated, making appropriate changes. If the manager feels the employee is doing the present job at a high performance level and has developed the skills necessary to perform the activities in the next logical step in the individual’s career track, the manager should inform the employee that he or she will be recommended for movement to the next step in the career track should an opening occur. This information should also be inputted into a database that is used to define which employees are considered for assignments when an opening occurs. It is important that the manager explain to the employee that because he or she is recommended for a job does not mean that the employee will be the best candidate for that job. In most cases there will be 3 or 4 qualified candidates for each job and the best qualified will get it. All that being recommended does is guarantee that the employee will be considered and if he or she is not selected he or she will be informed as to why another candidate was selected and what he or she should do to make himself or herself more competitive.

Step 6
A succession planning policy should be prepared. The policy defines which assignments must have potential successors identified for. It will also define the fast track approach to develop candidates when insufficient candidates are identified by the career planning process.
For the executive team you should set some specific requirements.

For example:
1. All of the direct reports to the plant manager should be professional managers not technologists.
2. All of the direct reports should have career objectives of being the plant manager.
3. The direct reports should all be rotated every two to three years to provide them with the required experience and knowledge about the total organization.
4. No one should be considered for the plant manager’s assignment unless they have managed at least three of the functions that report to the plant manager.

Note that you need succession planning for both management and technical positions. This means you need to establish a dual ladder that allows for growth in technical skills as well as managerial skills. The worst mistake an organization can make is to select managers primarily based upon their technical skills. I like to have all people that have held or are holding managerial assignments to have two ratings, a technical rating and a managerial level rating.

John Runyan Responds

December '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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