Degree of Dissemination

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How many people participate in SP&M processes? The answer to that question

has to do with the program’s degree of dissemination. It is a philosophical

issue that stems from—and influences—the organization’s culture. The degree

of dissemination may range from closed to open. A closed SP&M program is

treated as top secret. Managers assess the individual potential of their employees

without the input of those affected by the assessment process. Decisions

about whom to develop—and how to develop them—are limited to a ‘‘needto-

know’’ basis. Individual career goals may—or may not—influence these decisions.

Top managers are the sole owners of the SP&M program and permit

little or no communication about it. Secrecy is justified on two counts: (1)

succession issues are proprietary to the organization and may reveal important

information about strategic plans that should be kept out of the hands of competitors;

and (2) decision-makers worry that employees who are aware of their

status in succession plans may develop unrealistic expectations or may ‘‘hold

themselves hostage.’’ To avoid these problems, decision-makers keep the

SP&M process and its outcomes confidential.

On the other hand, an open SP&M program is treated with candor. Work

requirements, competencies, and success factors at all levels are identified and

communicated. The SP&M process—and its possible outcomes—is described

to all who ask. Individuals are told how they are regarded. However, decisionmakers

do not promise high performers with high potential that they are guaranteed

advancement; rather, they send the message that ‘‘you must continue

to perform in an exemplary way in your current job and take active steps to

prepare yourself for the future to benefit from it. While no promises will be

made, preparing yourself for the future will usually help you qualify for advancement

better than not preparing yourself.’’