The Need to Manage for ‘‘Getting the Work Done’’ Rather than ‘‘Managing Succession’’

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‘‘The natural response to a problem,’’ writes James L. Adams in Conceptual

Blockbusting, ‘‘seems to be to try to get rid of it by finding an answer—often

taking the first answer that occurs and pursuing it because of one’s reluctance

to spend the time and mental effort needed to conjure up a richer storehouse

of alternatives from which to choose. This hit-and-run approach to problemsolving

begets all sorts of oddities.’’1

Succession planning and management can fall victim to the same natural

response to which Adams refers: Whenever a vacancy occurs, the organization

is confronted with a problem. The ‘‘natural response’’ is to find an immediate

replacement. There may also be a tendency to ‘‘clone the incumbent’’—that

is, find someone who resembles the incumbent in order to minimize the need

to make adjustments to a new person. But replacement is not always appropriate.

Consider a replacement unnecessary when any one of the questions

listed below can be answered yes. (Review the flowchart appearing in Exhibit

11-1 as a simplified aid in helping with this decision process.)