As I sit here with a newly broken ankle and behind in my work and blogging, I have an opportunity to re-shuffle my planned blogs to reflect the situation at hand, and address succession planning.
It would seem to be so obvious. We have just finished our Presidential election where Vice Presidents were scrutinized for their ability to “step into the breach” and take over as President in the President becomes unable to perform his or her duties. The federal government has an elaborate defined succession plan going at least 18 levels from the President to the Vice President, Speaker of the House, President pro Tempore of the Senate, Secretary of State and so on through the Secretaries of the Federal Agencies.
When I worked for large multi-billion dollar companies and took responsibility for a P&L, or when I was an executive offer at public companies, succession planning was part of our annual planning and budgeting process. In fact, when executive officers were expected to be out of communication for a day or more, we had to designate someone to be our representative.
This process had many benefits. It may have designated subordinates that were being groomed, it provided a clear path for decision making which stunted interdepartmental power plays, and it provided sense of normalcy or “business as usual”.
May companies have gotten lax as technology has advanced, and barring a catastrophic event, and communications are almost never cut-off. Consider however that someone at some point may need a real vacation, could get sick, or for some reason be unreachable.
Succession Planning and Designating Representatives is even more critical in a small or mid-sized business where a family or group of founders is involved, especially when the family members or founders are not the operational designee of the CEO/President/Founder/Owner. Having it “all down on paper” and reviewed periodically will save a lot of grief in the event that the successions are ever invoked.
Succession planning should be addressed at least annually. Making it part of the budget cycle may make the most sense. Periodic adjustments for personnel changes, mergers & acquisitions, etc. should be done as needed.
It reminds me of a public service analogy where you are reminded to check your fire and smoke alarm batteries when you set your clocks forward to back for Spring and Fall. Batteries are good for years, but it’s better to check them at least a few times per year to be safe.