Sink or Swim? Your Company’s Titanic Opportunity
Recently, a medium-sized company hit the proverbial ice berg. The chief executive abruptly announced that he was taking a position with another company. At his staff meeting he outlined what the processes should be for finding his replacement. He outlined that the Board of Directors should appoint an interim CEO, and they should form a search committee, it should take a few months to identify suitable candidates and a new CEO should be in place in about 5 months. He assured the staff that their positions should be safe and they probably have nothing to worry about. The only definite was that the incumbent would be leaving the scene in a couple of weeks. At the very next staff meeting while the incumbent was house-hunting, the staff openly discussed who could be a potential replacement. What’s wrong with this picture? Answer 1: Most everything . Answer 2: No succession planning.
Succession plans are essential for an organization to thrive in BOTH times of success and times of turmoil. Succession plans are often viewed with a jaundiced eye by some who regard them as threats to their jobs. That could indeed be true. If someone has been in training to fill in for you, then indeed you are no longer irreplaceable. Conversely (and far more likely), having a back-up person can free you up to take a more senior position, added responsibilities, and handle more projects. It simply works both ways.
In situations where the soon- to-be-empty position is not straightforward, having a procedure in place will do a great deal for having all stakeholders informed of the navigational route.
It only takes one iceberg to sink a potential business organization. In the instance above, the continued smooth operation of the organization relies upon stable leadership. They are not going to sink, but the crew is going to flounder around for a bit and climb into their life boats until a new captain is at the helm.