Succession Planners: Don’t let a Lifetime of knowledge walk out the door.

I see it happen time and time again. A senior level executive strolls in on a Monday morning and announces to the company that in three months they are going to retire. The company immediately goes into a defensive stance and tells everyone that they have known about this for weeks and they are consulting the Strategic Succession Plan to identify the replacement.

Time passes but no one gets named. Why? Because the company never thought that the exiting individual was thinking about moving on. Leadership talks internally about this one and that one. More time passes. Outsider’s interview but none quite fit the bill. But no internals reach the high bar to actually replace the exiting executive.

Desperation is setting in so in their infinite wisdom Leadership decides that maybe a certain internal candidate maybe OK for the job. Over the next month the internal goes through a disjointed round of interviews and finally an offer appears along with an acceptance. The congratulatory email is distributed.

So what is wrong with this picture? Well the company has had to pay several thousands of dollars more for orientation. Due to lack of experience the chain of command has a brittle link and things don’t get done the way they used to so productivity suffers. Finally morale in the departed executive’s sphere of influence suffers because the new guy doesn’t know what they are doing and their credibility suffers to say nothing of the stress they feel due to their inadequacy.

No wonder the CEO keeps complaining that we just can’t find good people to work here. No we found the people. We just did not set up a six month transfer system where all pertinent job knowledge gets transferred from the about to be departed to the anointed successor or new hire.

Why? Because the company did not want to have an embarrassing conversation with the executive relative to their thoughts and plans about retirement. Also that kind of talk may put ideas in the executive’s head and they may bolt or worse yet take revenge on the company for wrongful termination!! So do nothing and things will work out? I guess we know the answer to that question!!

Succession planning can be an arduous task if it is looked upon as a transactional exercise rather than a relational opportunity to help the company manage its workforce maturely. Also a great help for the exiting individual is with coaching support so they can prepare themselves, their department and their families properly for the next chapter in their lives.

And finally it helps the successor greatly to experience the “Knowledge transfer” process from the incumbent to them so the successor is prepared for the transition and so their new sphere of influence will have confidence in them and their ability to lead.

We spend an awful lot of time, money and focus with the on-boarding process where if we did the same with the out-boarding process the calamity described in this epistle could easily have been avoided.