Interview with a Succession Planning Advocate

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of my former division leaders (ED) about her involvement in my organization’s succession planning initiatives.  Here’s a report of what I learned from her in our one-hour conversation.

While she was division leader, she and her direct line supervisors (known as Group Leaders or GLs for short) jointly created an Intern Group Leader program.  Training came in the form of job shadowing and mentoring.  Self-selected and identified candidates alike were paired with a direct line supervisor other than their own in a loose relationship consisting of periodic meetings.  The other GL tasks these interns were exposed to included mock ranking meetings, required reading of certain management books, and the opportunity to write one real performance appraisal for a willing group member.  She revealed one comical case study session on how to deal with employee crying with the interns.

Of the three rounds this Intern GL program was offered, she was able to promote four new GLs who were graduates of this Intern GL program (RN, BM, KL, BG).  She also particularly praised one of her GL’s mentoring abilities to produce solid graduates who were paired with her (LC).  She credits her GLs for coming up with the design which ultimately provided more tangible, concrete experiences.  Participation in this Intern Group Leader program helped some to realize this job was not a good fit for them and helped introduce potential candidates to the rigors of the job for a smoother transition to the promotion.  In retrospect, my former division leader’s one do-over would be to add more structure to the mentoring  meetings between Intern and Group Leader.  Another division leader implemented a more formal program in her area.  The Engineering Directorate interviewed both division leaders 3-4 years ago to gain insight into the possibility of implementing a similar program in their area.

At the Computation Directorate level, there was the Emerging Leaders Program that my former division leader helped to develop; she got to participate in the program as well.  The 6-8 month program’s strength was the opportunity to meet members of senior management who participants would not normally meet in the course of their careers.  Professional networks grew, especially after communication barriers came down about the second half of the second day of say a three-day training session.

At the department level, there was a strategic initiative committee on mentor trained succession planning, led by group leader KF.  The relatively inexpensive (~ $400) software, Succession Wizard, was purchased to help identify Polaris core competency strengths and opportunities for improvement for several key jobs throughout the department; it proved to be an invaluable tool for career advising when coupled with 360 input and the Succession Wizard results for the desired next job and how to get there through core competency development.

Also worth mentioning is the three-day Management Institute at Bodega Bay which, through hearing top senior management’s stories, provided perspective on how her troubles paled in comparison.

Finally, my former division leader firmly believes that succession planning is strategic leadership and not tactical management.

FYI, our Director recently announced partnership with the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business (40 participants selected by the PADs) and Texas A&M Bush School of Government to prepare the next generation of leaders with systems thinking.

So, there you have it.  A snap shot at one leader-coach’s experiences with succession planning at my organization.  Made me wish these types of programs were offered more consistently, more often, and to a wider audience.

Your thoughts?

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Boards Failure to Implement CEO Succession Plans Lead to Expensive Compensation

I just finished watching a video of former General Electric CEO Jack Welch explaining why Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) can command such excessive compensation (salary, stocks, Golden Parachute severance package, etc). Welch reminds us that to not have a succession plan in place, Boards have to go out and “buy” a CEO to assume the risks, responsibilities, and liabilities of the company where the potential CEO does not have historical knowledge or networks. Further, Welch worries that Boards that lose sight of the original purpose – pick the CEO, understand the vision, ensure the company effectively moves towards that vision, and support the CEO so that the company can be profitable – in favor of micromanaging is a dangerous situation. Welch calls Board micromanaging absolutely outrageous and warns to stay away from such Board-micromanaged companies because it is a lousy place to go. Case in point is Hewlett Packard’s Carly Fiorina’s approximately twenty million ($20M) golden parachute severance. So what do you think?

[10:30-12:24] Boards’ responsibilities
[12:50-16:50] failure of Board to not have CEO succession planning leads to excessive compensation $$ and Golden Parachute severance packages

Succession Planning Closely Tied to Gen Y

I started down this succession planning path because I was working on justifying the benefit and return on investment of sending technical employees to business school to my organization.  I did not realize that I would be learning more about how closely related succession planning is to recruitment and retainment of Gen Y.  It makes complete sense.  Here are a couple of Gen Y specific videos, mainly complements of the youtube community.

Jenny Floren, CEO & Founder, Experience, Inc. speaks about the Baby Boomer – Gen Y supply vs demand and the wired, collaborative nature of social networking that is so integrated to the Gen Y that the blocking of such Web 2.0 media in the workplace signals a huge disconnect between the two workforce generations.  Gen Y needs direction and are accustomed to constant, engaged feedback.  This Gen Y group seeks out ability to grow with the company and and for better loyalty, organizations need to define those career pathways.

Talent management viewed from supply chain management perspective to manage the uncertainty with Peter Cappelli, director of of Wharton‘s Center for Human Resources and author of “Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty”.  Joyce Bradley, senior vice president and general manager, Delaware Valley region, of Lee Hecht Harrison, emphasized leadership agility.

The employee – employer trade is no longer loyalty for security but talent for opportunity, per Dan Pink.

I thoroughly enjoy Dan Pink and his dynamic, blunt, yet logical presentation style.  Tangential Dan Pink video on intrinsic motivation from TED.

The 600-lb gorillas of the workplace, Boomers & Gen Y, and how they are similarly motivated.  The bookends seek flexibility, odyssey, and a bit of altruism element.