Senior Leadership Succession Planning, Who Cares?

By Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

Who cares about succession planning? As an organization or an aspiring senior leader, you need to care. Proper succession planning by an organization and its senior leaders is one of the keys to organizational resilience and long-term success. I know this to be true from many Baldrige Award-winning organizations that have done effective succession planning and continued to thrive through generations of leaders. 

I also know this to be true from personal experience with high-performing organizations that have not prepared a next generation of leaders or abandoned those leaders when it came time for CEO succession. Frequently, those “outside” leaders assumed that the old leadership and organizational performance systems were bad, the organizations stumbled, and sometimes they never recovered. Their high-performing organizational cultures were destroyed. In two instances, with Fortune 500 companies, the former CEOs were brought back to rescue the organization.

These lessons from history resulted in us placing a heightened focus on succession planning and leadership development in the Baldrige Excellence Frameworkwhere these topics are addressed in item 1.1 on Senior Leadership and item 5.2 on Workforce Engagement. 

Let me share some relevant data about CEO success and succession, in case you are unconvinced (or to support the conviction of those who are convinced). I will then discuss how organizations can best prepare for senior leader succession and how rising leaders can prepare themselves for a senior leadership role.