We have recently been involved in some recruitment and consulting exercises that involve succession planning in some description or another. These have ranged from large businesses right through to smaller, family organisations. It makes for very interesting work when you get into the social dynamics of the succession. Most people to seem to put an emphasis on the person coming in to the role and neglect to give due consideration to the individual who is departing or lessening their influence. This is a critical oversight. Equal weighting needs to be given to both. A smooth transition, obviously, is what everyone is trying to achieve and if due consideration and consultation is not given to that “senior” individual who is moving aside, it can be a recipe for failure. I have put together a few observations below of things that should be observed:
1. Ensure that the departing individual is moved into a role where they are still able to provide meaningful input. Not only is it good for their health and well-being but it will lessen the void that they will leave. And without doubt, there will be a void left.
2. Provide a structured mentoring arrangement for at least 12 months if possible between the incoming and outgoing. The transfer of knowledge will see your organisation benefit immensely.
3. With family businesses in particular, assemble an advisory board with at least one independent director who is outside the family. Ensure that this individual has an equal footing at the Board meetings and ensure the family members speak their piece at the meeting and don’t leave it for the dinner table the next night.
4. Last but not least, ask yourself why are you doing this succession. I have seen a couple of people in the last few years who were moved on before their time. Business seems to have a perception that if someone is past 60, they need to have a succession plan. A succession plan is a good idea but succession may not need to happen right there and then. These couple of people who come to mind were absolutely, 100% in their cognitive prime. Their decisions were astute, accurate and well informed. They were flexible and adept and coupled with their wisdom, made for excellent CEO’s. They had a lot more to give and were cut off too early, in my opinion. In short, look at the results, not the candles on the birthday cake.