A strong IT leader always creates a very detailed succession plan. He or she does this not only for himself or herself and not just for his or her direct reports but also for every single leader and manager in their organization, no matter how deep that organization is.
Succession Planning is a Leadership Risk Mitigation Exercise
We perform succession planning as means of reducing the risk of disruption to an organization, in the event we lose one or more people of importance for multiple possible reasons. A strong IT leader makes no assumptions or guesses about who is or is not important and, therefore, ensures there are clear replacements for each and every person in the organization, from top to bottom.
Succession plans are tied directly to Human Resources Organizational Development strategies and plans so there is always clearly communicated intent and full alignment with business goals.
Performed correctly, succession planning helps address the following issues in their organizations…
- Gaps in leadership, management, and speciality/operational skills.
- Redundancies in leadership, management, and specialty/operational skills.
- Strengths in leadership, management, and speciality/operational skills.
The first two help address negative risks. The last item helps identify who to reward with promotions and who you can trust in difficult situations. In all cases, you can know plan for proper skills acquisition (e.g. hiring new people or transferring from organizations that have redundancies) and/or skills development (e.g. education programs for leadership, management and speciality development).
Understanding how Service Management facilitates Succession Planning
Service Management breaks the organization into a very large set of Service Groups (a.k.a. Service Providers). In larger enterprises (50K+ people) there can sometimes be thousands of Service Groups that span the Business and IT, where all Service Groups fit into one massive hierarchy that reports to the enterprise’s primary leader (e.g. a CEO). This hierarchy is not an organizational hierarchy (like an Organization Chart) but a functional hierarchy. Therefore, each and every Service Group has a clearly defined functional purpose and is composed of at least one person that owns and is accountable for the delivery of said function. Many Services, in addition to the Service Owner, will have Service Workers (i.e. human resources) that are operational experts for that Service and its functions.
In short, if you create a complete Service Hierarchy that represents all Service Groups for the entire enterprise, you have created a very complete representation of all functional areas with clear understanding of all who fit into those functional areas. In other words, you now know…
- The leaders for each Service (and their skills),
- The managers for each Service (and their skills),
- The operational specialists for each Service (and their skills).
You now have a clear map of everyone that needs to be evaluated for levels of competency and risk, with a clear understanding of where they fit into the functional areas of the enterprise.
(NOTE: At this point, standard succession planning evaluations should be performed. You should be able to engage your Human Resources department for this. If they can’t help you, please feel free to Contact the IF4IT about help with your succession planning efforts.)
Enterprise Service Management facilitates a federated approach to Succession Planning
Now that you have a complete Service Hierarchy, with all Service Groups, you can require every Leader and/or manager of every Service Group perform his or her own Succession Evaluations for their own staff (within their Service Group or Groups). The results can be rolled-up from any Child Service Group to its direct Parent Service Group. Results can be rolled-up until they make it all the way up the chain to the enterprise leader.
Continuous Succession Planning
Once you’ve established and continue to maintain your Service Hierarchy, you can ensure that all Service Group leaders and managers perform their Succession Evaluations multiple times per year, regularly communicating the results of their efforts, up the Service Hierarchy. (It is recommended that this process be performed at least twice per year.)
Continuous Succession Planning will help you reduce risk and keep it low.
IT Leaders and Managers should ALWAYS perform their own Succession Planning
While succession planning is a critical exercise that is often driven by Human Resources organizations and executed by business leadership who are accountable or the entire enterprise, IT leaders and managers should NEVER wait to be told what to do. For this reason the IF4IT espouses the best practice of proactive succession evaluation and planning by each and every leader and manager in your IT organization. If you’re a CIO or CTO who wants to be good at what you do but you’re not performing succession evaluations and developing your succession plans, consider the unnecessary risk that you are introducing into your enterprise and think of the headache’s you’ll have not if but when you lose someone important. If you’re not proactive about succession planning, it could take months to replace lost human assets, resulting in disrupted delivery of projects that you, yourself, are accountable for. This could further result in negative impacts to your bonus and/or negative perception of you by your business/customers.
In summary, don’t wait to be told to perform succession evaluations and to create succession plans. Good leaders do these things proactively because they’re the right things to do and, when it comes to doing the right things for the right reasons, good leaders don’t wait for others to tell them what to do.