Some of us see the glass as half empty while the others see it as half full. Being a rather opinionated person, I insist that it pays to retain the attitude that the glass is half empty, when it comes to talent management at the top. Being satisfied with a half full glass is counter-productive to the interests of an organization and probably reflects rather badly on its talent management team.
Change – The only Constant:
Younger workers take the place of old ones in the ever-changing talent pool. This universal fact is exacerbated by the looming exit of the ‘baby boomers’ en masse. The departure of retiring workers threatens to leave gaps at the top management level, and needs one to hasten the leadership development plans. There are a number of ways in which a company’s workforce planning strategies could go awry. It is a smart talent manager who retains the sense of urgency required to anticipate the various exigencies, put policies and strategies in place to meet and overcome them.
Should such succession pass on by heredity, or devolve to the professions who toiled over the years to build the company, or be passed on to a rank outsider, whose success elsewhere establishes a claim to the reins of the business? Replacing top managers presents a serious challenge any day, with as many misses as hits. An effort to fill the shoes of an impactful founder, like Michael Dell, could prove a challenge for the best of executives, even if personally handpicked by the founder.
Planning for a Successor:
It is important to recognize the need for planning behind such an initiative, ensuring that the criteria and expectations are set in a transparent manner; and the exercise is looked upon as a process requiring continuous dialogue, ongoing evaluation and adjustments. It is necessary to treat the whole exercise as an ongoing affair of capability development, rather than something episodic, required at infrequent intervals.
Among other things:
The two instances when Apple Inc.’s performance after Steve Jobs has come under the scanner clearly showcase the need for a clearly chalked out plan to ensure that the business stays resilient, without the top man at the helm. While it floundered without Jobs and almost went under in 1985; this time Apple moved on to continued success – thanks to the way Tim Cook was selected and groomed for the role since 1998.
Never assume that it is only the big ones like Berkshire Hathaway, Dell and Apple that need a succession plan for the CEO/top managers in place. Every business needs it, and as good succession plans take time to develop, it is essential to start well ahead of the need.
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