How an effective succession plan can help your best leaders make the leap to top positions

18 Feb 2020

How an effective succession plan can help your best leaders make the leap to top positions

With de-layered structures, moving up to a CxO or any other mission-critical role can be a very large step, but a well-defined succession plan can ease the way.

Organisations are moving away from traditional leadership models. But embracing a flatter structure with greater levels of autonomy, flexibility and collaboration creates a new landscape of roles and a challenge for succession planning.

Although flattening structures does make upward career moves bigger, when managed correctly, they can provide great development opportunities for high-potential talent.

But if you are to reap the rewards of an effective succession plan, organisations need:

  • a clear definition of the role landscape and success profiles
  • highly credible identification of real potential to support promotions which leap-frog levels of responsibility
  • customised development programmes for high-potentials targeted or promoted to big span or responsibility roles
  • to take creative risks with high-potential to provide them with stretching opportunities to gain experience and learn on-the-job, for example:
    • involvement in corporate strategy and business planning
    • opportunities to engage with the Board, and senior executives
    • governance positions, engaging with regulators and other external bodies
    • engagement with other key business units
    • international, or diverse functional, secondments
    • leading transformation programmes and other cross-business projects
  • development of progressive real-time data and analytics to feed into participants’ assessment, and to shape personalised learning and development.
  • system level ownership, by actively managing, supervising and monitoring high-potential talent development and who will guide development and experiential moves
  • high-quality feedback programmes, delivered by trained on-the-job “mentors” who understand the benchmarks, know how to navigate the organisational culture and focus on “how” the high-potential operates – which builds strong capability
  • coaches who help high-potentials address their de-railers and release untapped performance and potential at pace by reflecting on the learning from real-time experience

Making objective succession decisions

Finally, there’s an important point to remember for anyone considering succession planning.

Succession is a system influenced strongly by human behaviour. Experience and executive judgement are essential to make it work.

But experience and judgement will only get you so far and can potentially amplify potential concerns from those affected about the effectiveness and fairness of the system.

It is vital to actively apply the best data you have: psychometric assessment, internal and external performance indicators and insight into experience. That will boost the chance of identifying real potential, improve the quality of decision making and help to address conscious or unconscious bias in the system.

Blending data with experience

At Odgers Berndtson, our Leadership Assessment and Development team assists clients to consider the impact of a flat organisation on individual roles and as well as the criticality of collective team-working to overcome the challenges of succession in a de-layered organisation.

We help organisations make informed, metrics-based decisions as to who has potential and can be promoted or developed. Then, we develop and deliver customised development plans.

Our rigorous approach, coupled with deep experience, will ensure your executive selection, high-potential identification, professional development and succession planning can be done with the utmost confidence.


Leadership Succession

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