LEADERSHIP and managerial succession is a fact of life for any company or public enterprise. It stands to reason therefore that successful succession is something that must be planned. 

An important factor in our ever-changing economy is the retirement, or retrenchment of a previous generation of leaders. Coupled with this is the appointment of inexperienced leaders and managers resulting either directly or indirectly from BEE and EE legislated requirements. As a result succession planning is becoming a distinct strategic imperative.

Historically, succession planning was only used for the most senior positions in companies as we have seen recently in the case of Pick n’ Pay and Sean Summers successor. The old approach was more about organisational needs and only applied to the very top echelons in business. 

The modern approach which I advocate should take into account the skills development needs of both the private and public sectors. In addition, unforeseen needs have been established resulting from the introduction of Employment Equity (EE) and BEE that make the old historic approach unworkable and inappropriate for South African companies and the public sector.

Both Public and private sectors need to cultivate a culture of ongoing learning and self development within their respective organisations. Employees, both male and female, should be encouraged to make career decisions that will guide them along a specific career path. This would need to be carefully established and clarified with each potential candidate to ensure participation in the succession planning project on a “no guarantee” basis. In addition, there should be an agreement by the employee to actively participate and maintain a commitment to ongoing training and development. The emphasis should be on balancing the aspirations of the employee with the predetermined skills development and managerial need of the organisation.    

It is for this reason companies need to take a proactive approach to leadership and management development and to adopt a best practice approach and ensure more from their succession plan than just a strategy for loss.

In her publication, Succession Planning as a Transformational Experience, Barbara Ross-Denroche explained that “retention and succession planning is a combined process that should be recognised as a strategic imperative for future success”. She further stated that “as organisations will be forced to compete aggressively to attract and retain the very best leaders they must commit to the development of an integrated and progressive succession and leadership development system to ensure they have the future skills required for sustainability”

In order to develop an effective succession strategy in both the public and private sectors there is a need to recognise that each entity must develop a strategy that fits its own specific needs in terms of skills and values. This strategy would need to be developed in such a way that current legislation is complied with and full advantage is taken of the benefits to be derived from the National Skills Development Strategy. Companies and public enterprises should develop a Corporate Qualifications Framework (CQF) for succession planning. 
This can be achieved by: 
• Ensuring the development of a culture of continuous learning and development
• Defining clearly the specific behaviours, skills and values leaders need in order for them to succeed now and in the future
• Ensuring the specific needs of the company have been identified and agreed by all relevant role-players. This is not just an HR department issue
• Making sure employees are aware of the succession planning strategy of the company and are prepared to participate and actively become involved. There must be “buy-in” by all role-players
• There must be “buy-in” and on-going commitment from senior and top-level management
• Making use of assessments, recognition of prior learning (RPL), interviews, staff profiling and performance appraisal in order to make correct placement and development decisions
• Developing industry and “need specific” programmes aligned to the NQF that fulfil specific requirements in terms of your specific Corporate Qualifications Framework (CQF) for succession planning.

© Des Squire (Managing Member) AMSI and ASSOCIATES cc Cell 0828009057 [email protected]

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