Seizing Opportunities

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A second way to demonstrate need is to seize opportunities. In one organization,

for example, the human resources department studied top managers’

ages and projected retirement dates. The results were astonishing: all the top

managers were due to retire within five years and no replacements had been

identified or developed. In that case, the HR department detected a brewing

crisis and helped avert it. The organization subsequently established a systematic

SP&M program that enjoyed strong support—and great success.

Any major strategic change will normally create opportunities. For instance,

as electrical utilities are deregulated, decision-makers realize that the

future success (and even survival) of these organizations often depends on

identifying and developing new leaders who can thrive in a highly competitive,

market-driven environment. That raises questions about the developmental

needs of successors who had been nurtured during a period of regulation. It

also prompts developmental activities to increase the market-oriented skills of

future leaders.

Use the worksheet appearing in Exhibit 5-5 to focus attention on ways to

hitchhike on crises and to seize opportunities.

Showing the Bottom-Line Value

A third way to demonstrate the need for a systematic SP&M program might be

called showing the bottom-line value. However, making that case for SP&M

can be tough to do. As Jac Fitz-enz writes:

One of the difficulties in trying to measure the

work of planners is that their output is primarily

a plan of the future. By definition, we will

not know for 1, 3 or perhaps 5 years how accurate

their predictions were. In addition no

one is capable of predicting future events,

and therefore it is not fair to blame the planner

for unforeseeable events. It is impossible

to measure the value of a long-term plan in the

short term. Planners thus often feel frustrated

because they cannot prove their worth with

concrete evidence.1

Those involved in succession planning and management may feel that they

face exactly the same frustrations to which Fitz-enz alludes. However, he has

suggested ways to measure each of the following:

Workload (How many positions need to be filled?)

Speed of Filling Positions (How long does it take to fill positions?)

Results (How many positions were filled over a given time span?)

Succession planning and management may thus be measured by the number

of key positions to be filled, the length of time required to fill them, and

the number of key positions filled over a given time span. Of course, these

measures are not directly tied to such bottom-line results for an organization

as return on equity, return on investment, or cost-benefit analysis. But they are

good places to start.

As Fitz-enz rightly points out, the central questions to consider when quantifying

program results are these2:

Exhibit 5-5. A Worksheet for Demonstrating the Need for Succession