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The Twelfth of Never

January 4, 2011

How long is too long to have an individual in a succession plan with no forward-momentum?

Whether it be in the workplace, in a community organization or in a volunteer organization, what are the necessary parameters that should be in place to keep successors moving along the succession path in a timely manner?  Isn’t there a risk of a successor becoming discouraged because they’re kept in a ‘holding’ pattern too long?

The woman waiting in line to be bumped up to SVP of Special Widgets can become just as frustrated as the guy in line to be moved into the Head Usher role at the 3rd Presbyterian Church of Oak Village.

Of course, the determination of the timeline and any corresponding milestones rests with the organization, and ACME Widget Company undoubtedly has a more sophisticated process than the 3rd Presbyterian Church.    So perhaps ACME Widget Company plans, prepares and readies its successor within a 2 year time frame while regularly providing her with ongoing development and feedback and increasing responsibility.  They commit to that timelime and realize that fastracking the process over 2 years is necessary so as not to lose a talented, dedicated staff member.

But the 3rd Presbyterian Church of Oak Village has a different plan.  They allow someone to be Head Usher for life – only death or disability tends to remove people from this role.  So the successor who waits to move into this role is held back from doing so potentially for decades.

I don’t know the answer, other than “it depends”, but I wonder how long is TOO long to make a successor wait to move into the goal-role?

Have you ever seen a successor become exasperated due to changing or prolonged timelines?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 5, 2011 7:11 am

    Great question. The value I believe is best measured by what the attendant learning and experiential programs that goes with being “next in line” delivers. To be a successor is to prepare in ways of new accountabilities and preparation in new skill sets and new.

    To be a successor and wait in “dead men’s’ shoes” is as you say wasteful and will result in lose of interest and talent.

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