Eliminating the rituals - Succession Management in a World Disrupted by COVID-19

Posted on June 03, 2020 at 11:13 AM


Companies are gradually adapting to the economic shock and social disruption brought on by this global pandemic.  As they rebuild and reorient in preparation for some form of normality, some people processes now just don’t seem to fit, offer relevance or align with a sense of ‘things being different’.

Succession management, when its focus was on the emergency deployment of C-Suite roles is one of them.  Clearly we need to manage risk around these individuals, but that is a business as usual activity.  If anything, the pandemic has shown that this ‘thin layer of cover’ ran out of usefulness quite early and that Succession Management really wasn’t in place sufficiently across the business where the work gets done.

This disruption to markets and industries will polarize the fortunes of those that are well positioned to emerge stronger and those that are caught still in response mode and ‘replacement planning thinking’.

Organisations must also devote attention to ensuring there is a focus on identifying future leaders -- specifically in mission- and operation-critical roles.   At the the time of writing, the public’s view of an important role has shifted dramatically – there has been a sense that people who make a daily contribution to the lives of others are now in critical posts and that executives in elevated positions are somehow on the periphery.  Clearly this will shift and return somewhat, but will we learn the lessons?

Reimagining the annual talent review

Why do we still believe that we need to produce ‘a book’ of the talent profiles, distribute it manually across the globe and then gather together to discuss it in draining all day meetings?  It’s something that we’ve always done and has become a ritual.  This pandemic has caused rituals to be abandoned – global sales-kick off conferences, HR strategy meetings even the visit to Costa on the commute.  As we have changed traditional face to face learning from a single physical session typically involving most of a day into bite sized modules delivered (still as a group), as shorter 1-2 hour activities, the same can be done with discussions around progression and succession.  But certainly not using the same tools to disseminate information about people.

Employing digital technology and platforms can build time to reflect, have a broader and up to date view on an individual. 

This pandemic has brought out the best in us -- and the best of us. Those in operational roles and in operational leadership who kept the wheels turning when it would have been easier to give in have demonstrated resilience, ingenuity and inspired others to perform.  Ask yourself, how many of those are currently in your Succession Planning and Management process?  Anecdotally, most organisations report that they know of only a few.

This is more than ‘just doing different’, it's about ‘coming back better’.

If you want to read more about succession planning, request our eBook – The Ultimate Guide to Succession Planning.  When you're ready to talk about how we could support your succession management strategy - or just to see some succession planning examples, do get it touch.

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