Why does succession planning sucks in majority of organizations?

“Sometimes it is the men 'higher up' who most need revamping – and they themselves are the last to recognize it." Henry Ford

To enhance organization vitality, it is imperative that employee capability building processes take a centrestage and not LEADERSHIP EGO's.  For the success of organization, it is inevitable that  each and every Leader focus on building scale and infrastructure to help built an institution not only to support development of organization and its employees, however, also to serve the larger society and eco-system. The success of the organization is largely dependent on the quality of its human capital and Leaders of the organisations.
In organizational development, succession planning plays a critical role. However, before, we delve into this, we must ask ourselves - Do we really want to create a stronger succession plan? Identify resources who are stretched (non obvious) and not stretched (obvious)?...Do we identify the people and then build on the capability gap? if the answer is resounding "YES"  in body, soul and in mind, then is the time to proceed.

Succession planning can be defined as the process of identifying and preparing suitable employees through mentoring, training and job rotation, to replace key players. Fundamental to the succession planning is an underlying philosophy that argues that top talent in the organization must be managed for the greater good of the enterprise. Succession planning is proactive in nature and results in the creation of a talent pool of candidates with the required potential and competencies who can take the senior level role in future and help further build the momentum to enable growth of organization and its employees. Companies that are well known for their succession planning and executive talent development practices include: GE, Honeywell, IBM, Marriott, Unilever, Microsoft, Pepsi and Procter & Gamble etc.

Succession planning is a dynamic process that involves constant adjustment to external market changes. In majority of the organizations, succession planning is carried out for Key Executive Management and their second line .

It is essential that employee who has been identified as a successor should meet organization values and should be medium to high in 80% of the key capability parameters. We need to ensure that there is Plan in place for addressing Development Needs.

Key Capability Index for each individual should be defined as per defined parameters. For Leadership these attributes could be ability to anticipate global trends, P&L Outlook, Positivity in chaos, Ability to deal with ambiguity, Problem solving capabilities, Decision Making Skills, Leadership Skills, Coaching and Mentoring , Conflict Resolution, Commercial Savviness, Presentation Skills , Analytical Skills, Integrity, Trust and Transparency, Frustration Resistance, Accountability, Performance Management, Strategic Leadership, Managing Chaos, Risk Management, Change Management etc. This will help identify the development Needs.

While carrying out this exercise, it is imperative that all potential candidates should be identified keeping in view their readiness to take next level within the defined time frame. The readiness level can be seen from from short term (12 -18Months), Medium (12-24 Months) and Long Term (24-36 Months) perspective.

However, in most of the organizations succession planning principle give way to back up planning that too, is done in a hush hush manner.  By keeping the succession plans to themselves, organizations unwittingly give key managers and employees a reason for leaving the organization. Especially if they see themselves as possible potential successors.  

Following are the few key factors that leads to failure of succession planning :
  • Leadership vulnerability and their own lack of confidence; hence, they avoid making promises to top performers and causing friction in average performers.
  • Succession planning is kept a well guarded secret. Why don't we tell the potential successor that they are being groomed? May be because, it may put  the existing leaders in the dock.
  • Lack of commitment and direct involvement of CEO and over dependence on Human Resource Managers.
  • Lack of commitment and resource investment in bridging the competency gap.
  • Done as one time exercise and list is revisited / taken out only when asked for?
  • Non institutionalization of review mechanism.
Transparency plays a critical role in making succession planning a success and it will not happen until we change both our outlook and attitude towards the process,  throw the ego's out of window and develop a sense of well being and fearless culture in the organization.  


  1. Its easier for things to grow on the soil than on the sand..The sand(mindset) needs a replacement with soil(positive outlook).


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  3. Surinder Sharma3:16:00 PM

    The revealing fact in the top earning CEOs list released recently is that in some cases the CEO's salary is up to 17 times more than his immediate successor. It starts where it should be stopped.