IAN FERGUSON: Ignore succession plan at your peril


Ian Ferguson

In every echelon of our society, we face this common dilemma. Businesses (private and public), religious sects, political parties and civic groups all fail to establish strategic succession plans to secure the future success and viability of their organisations. Business owners, church leaders, politicians and other community leaders often operate with a sense of immortality, thinking that death or separation will not come.

This article is intended to serve as a ‘wake-up call’ in a bid to impress upon leaders of today to identify, equip and release the next generation of leaders for our national, corporate and community success.

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing staff who have the potential to fill key leadership positions in the company. Global research indicates that a formal succession plan, where employees know they are being prepared for future roles in the company, increases worker retention, loyalty, morale, productivity and satisfaction. We know a happy employee will create a happy customer who, in turn, becomes the repeat customer. Plainly speaking, companies with well thought-out and communicated succession plans fare better in the marketplace, and there is a clear reflection in 'bottom line' profits.

Up to this point we have not shared any new concepts. This is an old revelation. In fact, a number of Bahamian family-owned businesses have given us a template that works. The simple plan of succession for many was for their children to take over ownership and management of the business when their time was over.

While this model works beautifully and simply for sole proprietorships, it is more complex when a larger number of persons is involved. The question that looms, then, is why do so many in this business environment still operate without a plan of succession?

Listen to the voices of dissent:

  • We do not have the talent on our team. These young people are simply not preparing themselves adequately to take over.

  • I had to learn leadership and management the hard way; they have to learn as well. I am not prepared to offer on a platter what I had to sweat and toil over.

  • I am not ready to go, so I have to secure my job and keep all the knowledge I have. Call me insecure, but I have to look out for my interests.

  • There is too much politics involved. No matter who I prepare that person may not get the job anyway.

The time has come for us to silence these voices. We hold the talent of so many in industry captive, as well as leave the progress of our companies in the lurch, when we fail to affirm the skills of those in our employment. We must be deliberate in refusing to accept stagnation, mediocrity and inefficiency. Creating a plan of succession should not be an afterthought but, rather, a major component in the daily discussion at the executive roundtable. Establishing a succession plan for your company requires that you:

  • Identify those with the potential to assume greater responsibility.

  • Provide critical development experiences to those that can move into key roles.

  • Engage your company’s leadership in supporting the development of potential leaders, and hold them accountable for preparing more.

  • Build a database that can be used to make better staffing decisions for key jobs.

This is literally the life or death scenario for your business, so get to it.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organisations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@ coralwave.com.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment