Succession Planning: Who is Responsible for it’s Success?

By Ron Ries

Although some fast-growing companies may feel immune from needing a succession plan, the topic is broad in scope and has several implications for the workplace. A properly executed plan can help delegate responsibilities and allow new roles to be created.

Why is succession planning so essential? Succession planning focuses on individuals and their potential to fill key leadership roles. It would be a mistake not to address the issue of succession planning because ignoring it can allow a crisis to to develop. What happens in our domestic and work lives can have an impact around the world due to more economic, cultural, and lifestyle integration than ever before.

Let’s examine who should be responsible for developing an appropriate succession plan for an organization. The workplace is currently comprised of five generational groups based on year of birth, as follows:

1925-1945 Silent Generation
1946-1964 Baby Boomers
1965-1979 Generation X
1980-2000 Millennials or Generation Y
2001-present Generation Z (the new silent generation – too
young to make much noise yet)

Keep in mind, millennials make up a majority of today’s workforce. In getting back to our initial question of responsibility, each generation must take on their share for generational succession planning to work. Let’s take a closer look at each group.

For the most part, the Silent Generation has done their part in transferring leadership and responsibility to its successor generation. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll let them off the hook. Next are the baby boomers. This generation, known as “the post-World War II” group, took the reins of power and responsibility through revitalization, consisting mostly of expansion, economic success, and profitability. Now, they have the responsibility of passing the torch to the next generation.

Baby boomers have achieved wealth, prosperity, and sustainability, and in general, can be viewed as successful. Now comes the critical phase of transferring not only economic wealth but leadership as well. Some [who? Experts?]have insinuated that the baby boomer generation neglected this responsibility, taking in their economic success and beginning retirement instead of providing guidance to the next generation.

What, then, is meant by transferring values? We are talking about the transfer of experience, knowledge, and positive momentum which all stem from the natural maturing or aging process.

Professionals in today’s workforce are bound to have watched many baby boomers retire. Generally, it seems that rather than possess the desire to ensure their developments are sustained by the next generation, outgoing boomers fail to transfer their values to the next generation and leave others to blindly take the reins. It is essential that future retirees impart the tools and methodology which shaped their success to the future generations. Inadequately developing the transferability of their values is is one of the reasons most companies seek the support of alliances such as mergers or acquisitions.. This problem has led to a professional failure [for the companies in question?] which has incidentally been overshadowed by economic success.

Let’s focus our attention on future generations. For the sake of this article Generation X and millennials will be grouped together. As the beneficiaries of the baby boomers, these generations have the joint responsibility of asking for leadership roles because they are the successors. It is up to them to convince baby boomers that they have the dedication, courage, knowledge, and emotional qualities to take on the responsibility of leadership. They must also accept the training and learning necessary to gain the necessarily momentum to succeed. To this point, baby boomers need to share and embrace these qualities of the younger generations in every way possible to make this transition meaningful. One reason companies seek alliances with others instead of utilzing an individual succession plan is because they do not see the talent that exists within their employee base. They are hungry for growth, so they try to secure their success by selling out to others. This misstep is rapidly becoming the norm within our economic culture and stifles new thinking, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

In turn, Generation X and millennials need to learn to respect the values of their predecessors. Certainly, they can learn to develop new methodologies and practices through proactive planning and analysis of best practices. They should also promote a culture which invests in their future rather thanexpecting to reap the rewards of others without developing further opportunities for themselves and generations to follow. This partnership between the generations is essential establishing a continuum of progress and success by working to overcome perceived cultural and generational differences. These differences are factors of inaction that can be transformed into positive, productive action steps.

Bridging the generational gap may seem like the most obvious solution in achieving forward progress, but it solution in achieving forward progress, but it does little to mitigate gender and ethnic concerns in our culture. We have witnessed many success stories over the past years regarding gender advances, partially due to an acceptance based need in the workplace and a change the role of women both professionally and domestically. Let’s not forget that women now possess a greater share of the workplace than ever before.

More and more women offer the necessary education and skillsets to enter the workplace and provide economic resources for themselves and their families. This inadvertently works to level the playing field and promote equality. The role of women throughout our culture is evolving; we see this not only in domestic life, but in the corporate world, the political arena, and even in the military. We continue to see progress being made in this aspect of diversity and inclusion. This momentum must build and develop as the generation gap grows in tandem with advances made in relation to gender issuescreating new role models within the workplace to help set the tone for upcoming generation Z.

The most complicated succession planning initiative appears to be race equality. This issue has deep historical roots and is continuously affected by existing cultural divides. It must be dealt with aggressively, proactively, and with the tools necessary to implement change. Many companies have developed diversity officers within their human resource functions to help address the issue. Their role is to integrate the workforce. These efforts require a sufficient amount of attention to be successfully achieved. An organization’s culture is greatly influenced and judged by the success of these efforts. This initiative should include acceptance, education and motivation to achieve fiscal, economic and emotional success. Race equality is the most critical issue facing diversification efforts.

How can all generations bring diversity initiatives into our professional and personal lives? Success is a pivotal point in this process. It signifies accomplishment and prosperity. Successful businesses, families and societies have been instrumental in showing us that, in its optimal form, diversity ignores biases based on generational, gender and ethnic issues. These stories serve as lessons to empower others facing similar challenges. Embedded in this success are several key factors such as the transfer of thought leadership, continued support of independent thinking, inclusion during decision-making situations, collaboration at all levels of management, effective communication, and broadening conformity and acceptance of others’ ideas and recommendations. This evolving process incorporates the realities of each person’s experiences, lifestyles, and goals. Now is the time to tackle these challenges which ultimately will lead to increased opportunity and favorable results.

Succession planning in all its forms and methodology should be a positive experience and is a necessary to achieve sustainability and maintaining a unique culture, style, and successful practice or operation. It is up to each of us to promote and improve equality and inclusion within the workplace.

Need help to develop a game plan of your own? WeiserMazars can assist you in creating a succession plan tailored to your specific needs and will guide you every step of the way.

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