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If there is a thing that the pandemic has forced individuals, businesses, governments, and the world at large to do, is to rethink fundamentals such as business continuity, agility and succession.

Despite the exiting of all leaders from office being inevitable, studies show that majority of organizations are not well prepared to replace outgoing directors and/or senior executives. At times, companies agonize for extended periods over whether to give the axe to a senior executive or Board member, but lack of a successor in place prolongs the process.

On account of the numerous reforms in corporate governance, a good number of companies now pride themselves in having succession planning programs in place. These programs are designed to identify brilliant persons throughout the organization and prepare them for certain leadership roles, as they become available.

It is however worth noting that lack of preparedness doesn’t constitute the problem in its entirety. A bigger quagmire, as many studies have revealed, is that time and again, board members and senior executives are being replaced badly.

Organizations need not stop at identifying the successors and flagging them at board level, but advance to ensuring that succession planning and leadership development are combined for maximum effect. Evidence that this mechanism bears good fruit can be found in organizations with prestigious leadership-training programs. Combining the two ensures that the process is broad enough to uncover and correct skill gaps that can unsettle even the most promising successors.

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, in his book, ‘It’s Not the How or the What but the Who’, expounds on the below six succession-planning guidelines:-

  1. Initiate a succession plan early, preferably immediately the successor takes charge.
  2. Create comprehensive performance metrics and a procedure against which leaders will be evaluated. 
  3. Identify and develop potential successors within the firm and then benchmark them against external talent.
  4. Cast the net wide by sourcing from an external pool of candidates. 
  5. Perform periodic emergency succession drills. 
  6. Set up an extensive transition process to assist with onboarding.

Last, but not least, ensure that both the Board and Senior Management focus on change management, communication and cultural alignment when implementing the succession-planning program, to achieve the desired results.

By Lousiana Kayika, Corporate Governance Lead, Scribe Services