Succession Planning = Defining Your Value (Curt Swenson and Wendy Samson, 2017)

As we continue with our succession planning series, FutureSYNC wants to remind our readers that many women who have been given the leadership assignment are often tapped for succession with the thought that they will not only be great at the job, but they will also be less expensive. Join us for our next Rocky Mountain Center for Women in Leadership’s “Unflappable You” professional development session coming up on May 12th in Helena. This session is BY women, WITH women and FOR women and can be a catalyst for learning your value proposition and defining your true worth. Now for more on succession planning….

Succession planning is proactive and is a PROCESS, not an event!  Succession is a systematic and deliberative effort to ensure ongoing continuity and knowledge transfer from incumbents to high potential employees.  This only occurs when an organization adopts and culturally embeds specific procedures for the identification, developmentand long term retention of talented individuals.

Its all about readiness:  The right people, for the right jobs, at the right time!

So, what exactly does a well-crafted succession plan look like?  Breaking down this seemingly complex process can be simplified by examining the questions succession plans seek to answer:

  1. WHAT mission-critical positions do we need?  The answer to this question
    can be found by conducting a critical position analysis.
  2. WHAT will future employees in this role need to have in order to be successful?  This is discovered
    through the process of designing specific future-based competency models for your critical positions.
  3. WHO will we intentionally develop for this role in the future?  Identifying your “bench
    strength” requires assessment of BOTH current performance and future potential through an objective assessment process, based on the future-based competencies.
  4. HOW will we develop our identified High Potentials?  Successful development programs
    are based on your future-based competencies and include multiple lanes for learning, including classroom, development plans, coaching/mentoring, experiential learning assignments and outcome-based measurements.
  5. HOW do we embed this process in our organization?  Embedding any process requires
    organizations to examine expectations and BELIEFS.  When every incumbent in a critical position knows they are accountable for developing their future replacement(s), you know the process of succession has been embedded.
  6. WHY do we need succession planning?  You’ve heard of the “Peter Principle” (Laurence & Hull, 1969) – promoting individuals to their highest level of incompetency.  It really means that in most organizations, people are promoted based on their performance in their CURRENT role, rather than their potential to perform in a future role.

Effective succession planning foils the Peter Principle by:

  • Identifying the future-based competencies needed to succeed;
  • Measuring those competencies in potential future candidates;
  • Preparing employees BEFORE promoting them;
  • Testing employees’ capabilities BEFORE promoting them;
  • Setting high potential employees up for success;
  • Designing systematic approaches that grow Employee Engagement

To learn more about Succession Planning, contact FutureSYNC International at (406) 254-2326. To meet our consultants in person, join us for our next Rocky Mountain Center for Women in Leadership professional development seminar held in Helena on May 12th and grow your leadership! To register, email us at


Peter, Laurence J.; Hull, Raymond (1969). The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. New York: William Morrow and Company. p. 8. ISBN 0-688-27544-3. OCLC 1038496