Problems With Succession Planning


Succession planning, when utilized correctly, will improve the resourcefulness and steadfastness of a business. However, like many plans, there will be unforeseen challenges and problems along the way. Knowing the problems that can occur with succession planning, and actively looking for their signs, will help you keep your business functioning effectively.

The facts

The most common problems in implementing a succession plan are (1) lack of a sufficient pipeline of talent; (2) inability to motivate and retain key employees; (3) ineffective business practices; (4) unfocused roles and responsibilities across a career span; (5) limited information about employees; (6) lack of company vision and failure to address future needs; (7) failure to assess all components of an active succession plan periodically.


If a problem is encountered in a succession plan, measures should be taken to address it. Left to continue, a problem can have a negative impact on overall company morale, reduce productivity and reduce consumer confidence in the business. In severe cases, a problem can result in bankruptcy of the business.


For best results, employees, development plans and key positions should be assessed biannually, if possible. Supervisors and managers should have input as to how the candidate is progressing, but a human resources professional is the best person to oversee the overall health of the succession program. If the succession plan is within a family-run business, an uninvolved party, such as an attorney, may be the most objective in spotting problems.


There are a number of solutions that you can apply to problems that show up during succession plan implementation. If you find you only have one obvious successor for a position, look further down the career ladder for potential future leaders, or actively seek outside talent. While not all potential candidates can fill the position, they can provide the best support for the incumbent when needed. If people keep leaving the organization, find out what will motivate them to stay before implementing a succession plan. If you are unable to focus on the core responsibilities of a key position, look at your business plan to redefine the role; make sure this position is not supporting business functions that are no longer necessary. Make sure you are thinking of where the company is heading and what skills will be needed then as opposed to now. Failing to train employees to handle future needs will limit company growth. Finally, make sure to assess all aspects of the succession plan, including identification of the key positions, employee assessment and development opportunities.


Planning and assessment will help you choose the best solutions for your business, but there are outside forces that will influence how successful your succession plan is. Realize that although a plan may fail, the overall business culture can benefit if you adopt the principles of succession planning.

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