How to Do Simple Succession Planning

The term “succession plan” must sound daunting, based on how few people make them. Here’s a quick way to make a perfectly adequate succession plan for your entire organization in about 15 minutes (per manager).Org Chart Revision

The Three Steps to Simple Succession Planning

  1. List all your Directs
  2. Rate them Independently
  3. Plan their Next Growth

Here’s how to perform each step, with examples.

List your Directs

You probably have this already, maybe in an org chart, yet a shocking number of managers don’t have a working spreadsheet listing all of their direct reports. You should have at least one master list, and be able to quickly and easily make copies as needed for thought exercises like this one.

Make a fresh spreadsheet with columns like these (don’t record anything derogatory or overly sensitive; check with HR if you have doubts):

Simple Succession Plan at Step 1
Name Title Readiness for Promotion Next Growth Area Next Step to Grow DISC
Joe Supervisor II C,S

Populate it with the name and title of each direct, and what you already know about them. In this case I happen to know the DISC profile of my directs. Only put things that matter to you, not every conceivable fact.

Rate them Independently

Next, rate them independently based on your sense of how ready they are to be promoted to their next level up.

I use a simple “Ready Now, Less than 1 Year, More than 1 Year” rating.

Simple Succession Plan at Step 2
Name Title Readiness for Promotion Next Growth Area Next Step to Grow DISC
Joe Supervisor II Less than 1 Year C,S

Here you may just be writing down your subjective impressions. You may not have even thought about each person in this way. Don’t worry, just do your best and remember you can revise this list as you learn more.

Plan Their Next Growth

Next, having realized you feel that Joe is not entirely ready for promotion this instant, but you feel he’ll be ready in less than a year, ask yourself what his most important growth area is to get him ready for promotion. Write down that area. And finally, since a growth area might be a big topic, also write down the very next step you’d like to have that person take in their growth.

If you’ve been doing One-on-Ones with your directs, you’re already having these conversations. If you’re not having them yet, now you’re much more equipped to start.

Simple Succession Plan at Step 3
Name Title Readiness for Promotion Next Growth Area Next Step to Grow DISC
Joe Supervisor II Less than 1 Year Systems Thinking Teach peers how to do a gemba walk C,S

Having gone through this Simple Succession Planning exercise, you can pass this article to each of your directs who supervises or manages a team, and have them do the same thing.

Bingo, now you can roll up their simple succession plans with yours. You can show yourself — and your boss — how deep your leadership bench is, and what growth experiences you need to give your directs (and they need to give THEIR directs) to continue the growth.

Review and revise this quarterly.

Benefits of Simple Succession Planning

The benefits of Simple Succession Planning are as wide ranging as the process itself is simple:

  • You’ll know who can take extended vacation and who cannot, based on whether their team can cover for them
  • If you abruptly lose a key person, you can quickly see how to mobilize the team to cover for them and what strengths need to be brought in
  • You’ll have visibility into your extended team’s growth and progress
  • Each team member will feel that their career growth matters and is being planned — this can massively improve morale and retention
  • You’ll be able to intelligently plan your training around your team’s needs
  • You’ll be able to plan and track cross-training, which dramatically boosts organizational resilience and breaks down silos

Block out 15 minutes and do this right now. Then write me about your experience.

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