Succession Planning Flawed

Two English news snippets this week past mentioned succession planning. One was the rather arrogant response of the retail grocer Sainsbury’s top man – he’s staying put for years apparently – and the other being a football manager leaving Man United. Their next guy seems to be deliberately chosen as from the mould of the old.

I do despair on this topic.

About four years ago I remember screaming at an episode of Evan Davis’s The Bottom Line.

He chairs a roundtable format with three business leaders chewing over a couple of topics de jour. This one had a trio of chief execs; Harriet Green (electronics distributor Premier Farnell), Chris Hyman (service support group Serco), & Jens Hofma (Pizza Hut UK).

They all trotted out that yes, of course, succession planning was key for them. They had plans in place. Every business should know who’s coming up next.

Misguided politically correct sterile nonsense.

Whether this strangely vaunted succession plan is in place or not, each time I’ve seen at first hand a new person at a major helm, the winners have universally made big changes. Regardless of both the level of esteem attached to their predecessor and whether they were promoted from within or parachuted in from outside.

You hear the same tired words used by proponents of this succession formality. Stability being the number one.

I do not like this specific focus on stability. Every year it is the word of Davos. And I have to stop myself from chucking things at the telly each time the conference covers the airwaves.

What’s wrong with a bit of chaos?

In times of stability you achieve very little. You most likely stagnate, go backwards. Chaos does not mean bedlam. It can mean progress.

My belief is that the management-speak obsessed should think less about the personality coming up next, but the processes and systems upon which they’ll sit.

The real value of succession planning for me is putting in place a terrific foundation for the future.

None of the rentaquote CEOs got this.

Man United have their (apparently envy-of-the-world) training complex, youth programme and merchandising arm.

A new broom is unlikely to unpick all of this. Yet it is not too rigid to add to or amend.

In Sales terms, have you got the right process embedded? How is talent nurtured (& remember Ferguson says hard work is a talent too)? How is progress managed?

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