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Succession Planning

Succession planning is a talent management process where organizations can proactively develop individuals for key positions and prepare for vacancies in leadership positions. This typically involves assessing potential of individuals for future positions as well as performance in current positions.

Brainard Strategy consultants recommend that succession planning is coupled with succession development, the facilitation of learning and skill development for leaders to prepare them for future roles. Together, these processes of succession planning and development can help companies grow and retain key talent.

Why have a succession plan?

  • Assists in developing employees and preparing them for future achievement
  • Ensures continuity of leadership
  • Ensures continuity of culture
  • Helps in assessing a company’s talent pool
  • To retain key talent and make an organization more attractive to job seekers


  • Helps to translate business strategy into specific organizational capabilities to support future success

And how it helps organizations…

  • Engages senior management in a disciplined review of leadership talent
  • Guides development activities of key executives
  • Brings selection systems, reward systems, and management into alignment with the process of leadership renewal
  • Assures continuity of leadership
  • Prevents premature promotion

Succession planning should be…

  • Customized to the organization
  • Focused on future strategy and culture
  • Driven by top management
  • Based on objective multi-rater assessments
  • Focused on development, with shared responsibility
  • Focused on development of a leadership

Successful succession planning needs to…

  • Identify management development initiatives that address the needs of the organization, both today and tomorrow
  • Highlight the gaps in the organization where no suitable successors are available
  • Identify individuals who can be developed to address the gaps, matching them with key job requirements
  • Identify skill shortages that may require targeted recruitment or management development programs
  • Track key groups of employees, such as graduates, specialists, or high potential staff, to monitor their career progression and reduce the risk of losing these valuable resources

Successful succession planning and development results in several changes in participating companies:

From: To:
Procedural inertia Business driven
Secrecy Openness
Company owned Mutual ownership
Subjective Objective
Good intentions Active development
Paper intensive On-line, knowledge-targeted
Feedback-poor Feedback-rich
Vertical Horizontal

Success Story

Challenge: A regional healthcare provider had many strong individual leaders, but no uniting philosophy behind talent management that was linked to the business strategy or objectives. This resulted in a need to identify future executive successors and determine what development opportunity to make available to the identified individuals to prepare them for their potential future positions.

Action: Leadership competencies were identified and a goal-based, pay-for-performance management strategy was implemented. This internal infrastructure was leveraged for assessing current performance of leaders and provided a framework for identifying leaders’ potential to fulfill other positions.

Result: Impact of this succession planning program was seen on both an individual and system-wide level.  Individual leaders experienced growth and professional development as a result of the facilitated, development feedback sessions and development planning they received through this program. At a system-wide level, the succession planning program demonstrated both areas of healthy pipelines of talent and areas of risk. This information has informed strategic talent management and leadership development programs for the company to retain top talent in key positions.