At some critical point, your focus needs to be on the ‘Impact of Loss’, ‘Flight Risk’ and ‘Criticality to Retain’ components of Succession Planning. If you’re serious about achieving success through and with your best people, then knowing how firmly and severely they ‘touch’ the organization now and in the short and medium-term future is critical.
Just to say again up front, Succession Planning is immensely personal – or at least it should be. After all, we are talking about someone’s career, life, direction, motivation, purpose, and dreams – plus their family and life outside of work – and trying to connect these personal and professional ‘dots’ to organizational future business objectives.
We are talking about real people – possibly your very best people, and it requires focused energy and time to carry it out properly. Succession Planning could dramatically change theirs, the organization’s, and even your own life as their manager and leader. It should not be rushed. If you identify and invest in your best talent and they grow, improve, contribute and stay…everyone wins – including you. We need to find the balance between capturing quality data that has ease of analysis – while ensuring much more of the ‘human touch.’
We need to focus and carefully look at key people and critical positions from numerous angles and perspectives and gather relevant information that can produce an integrated picture – even a harmonized image of them and the future. No one ‘angle’ or view is complete in and of itself. No one data grouping or pool tells the whole story. And remember, if the Succession Planning initiative you are planning has some depth and breadth or scope, your boss or someone in senior management will be doing the same exercise focused on you. You would want them to do it carefully, thoughtfully, comprehensive and seriously. You should do the same for anyone you evaluate.
Impact of Loss: How much or to what extent, will or could the person’s departure impact the organization (department, project, business unit, etc.)? Find some way to measure or record your degree of belief or concern about them about the organization’s short and medium-term future. What are your most relevant, current contextual criteria for assessing adverse impact should they go?
Flight Risk Assessment: What is the likelihood that the person will choose to leave or will need to be helped to leave the organization? Losing some people may be a good thing…losing the best people, at the wrong time could be devastating. I suppose we could relabel the alternative Flight Blessing Assessment. If you were to make a list of the possible reasons and were to ask ‘what are the chances of them leaving’, what would they be? The list will be unique to your company and current/near-future context and should be as fact-based as possible; although some of the ‘assessment’ will be subjective. But ensure you ask the right people who truly know the person.
Criticality to Retain: Assess them in the balance with Impact of Loss. When we view them through this lens, we will be asking ourselves, ‘How critical would the loss be, but more importantly, what action might or should be taken to try to keep them and not lose their contribution?’ Investing in extraordinary or accelerated training and development or trying to tap into intrinsic motivations, or to offer inducements need to be carefully considered. The wrong criticality response could drive them away even quicker.
And while we’re at it, we need to remind ourselves again that this is not just an exercise to determine if someone has management or senior leadership potential. If you’re open to the idea that not everyone should be on the management track, the process will also help you identify those Subject Matter Experts or Technical Specialists who should not be managers – and probably don’t want to be managers!
To wrap this critical section up, and added into all of what we have said above, an additional critical question needs to be asked and only a manager or leader who truly knows his/her people can come close to answering it. Besides their knowledge, skill, experience and ability, what is it about them – their drive, motivation, and desire; their inner special something that makes them worth making every effort to retain?