Management Practices

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Directions: Use this interview guide to help you prepare questions in advance of a

benchmarking visit to another organization. Share these questions before your visit

to an organization known for its effective SP&M practices. (Add questions as appropriate

for your organization.) Pose the questions appearing in the left column below.

Then record notes in the right column. Use the results in formulating a proposal for

improving SP&M practices in your organization.

Questions Notes on Responses

1. What mission statement has been established

for succession planning and management in

your organization?

2. What goals and objectives have been established

for succession planning and management

in your organization?

3. What policy and philosophy statement has

been written to guide succession planning and

management in your organization? (Would it

be possible to obtain a copy?)

4. How does your organization define key positions?

What positions, if any, are given special

attention in your succession planning program?

Why are they given that attention?


Exhibit 5-7. (continued)

5. How does your organization identify, describe,

or clarify the requirements of key positions?

(For example, has your organization made an

effort to identify job responsibilities, competencies,

or success factors by level?)

6. How does your organization assess current job

performance for succession planning and

management purposes? (Do you use the organization’s

existing performance appraisal system—

or something else?)

7. Does your organization use replacement charts

based on the current organization chart? (If

not, why?)

8. How does your organization determine the

qualifications, requirements, or competencies

for each key position in the future?

9. How does your organization attempt to integrate

succession planning and management

with organizational strategy? With human resource


Questions Notes on Responses

10. How does your organization identify successors

for key positions?

11. How does your organization identify highpotential

employees (who are capable of

advancing two or more levels beyond their

current placement)?

12. How does your organization establish Individual

Development Plans (IDPs) to plan, guide,

and accelerate the development of high-potential


13. What special programs, if any, has your organization

established to accelerate the development

of high-potentials?

14. What special computer software, if any, does

your organization use in its succession planning

and management activities? Why was it


15. How does your organization evaluate the results

of succession planning and management



Exhibit 5-7. (continued)

16. What special problems has your organization

encountered with succession planning and

management? How have those been solved?

Exhibit 5-8. Opinions of Top Managers About Succession Planning and


Question: How would you summarize the opinions of top managers in your organization

about a succession planning program? Circle all response codes below that


Opinions of Top Management Percentage Response

They don’t believe succession planning is worth

the time required for it. 9%

They have no clue why such a program might

be worthwhile. 9%

They believe that a succession planning program

is worthwhile but are not aware of how to

manage it efficiently and effectively. 55%

They believe a succession planning program is

worthwhile and that a formal program is better

than an informal program. 27%

I don’t know what they think about a succession

planning program. - 0 -

Other Comments None

Total 100%

Source: William J. Rothwell, Results of a 2004 Survey on Succession Planning and Management Practices. Unpublished survey

results (University Park, Penn.: The Pennsylvania State University, 2004).

would answer those questions about top management opinions in your organization.

Turn then to Exhibit 5-9 and consider how you would characterize

your own opinions about systematic SP&M.

Understanding How to Secure Management Commitment

To understand how to secure management commitment, Diane Dormant’s

classic ABCD model remains a helpful tool.11 ABCD is an acronym based on

Exhibit 5-9. Opinions of Human Resource Professionals About Succession

Planning and Management

Question: How would you summarize your opinions about a succession planning

program? Circle all response codes below that apply.

Your Opinions Percentage Response

I don’t believe such a program is important. - 0 -

I believe that other methods work better in identifying and

preparing possible successors. - 0 -

I believe a succession planning program is worthwhile but

other programs are more important for this organization

right now. - 0 -

I believe a succession planning program is important. 36%

Succession planning is critically important to this organization

at this time. 64%

Other Opinions None

Total 100%

Source: William J. Rothwell, Results of a 2004 Survey on Succession Planning and Management Practices. Unpublished survey

results (University Park, Penn.: The Pennsylvania State University, 2004).

the first letter of several key words. Dormant’s model suggests that large-scale

organizational change—such as the introduction of a systematic SP&M program—

can be understood by examining adopters (who is affected by the

change?), blackbox (what is the change process?), change agent (who is making

the change?), and domain (the change context).12

The most valuable feature of Dormant’s model is her view that different

strategies are appropriate at different stages in the introduction of a change.

The change agent should thus, to facilitate change, take actions that are keyed

to the adopter’s stage in accepting an innovation.

Dormant believes that adopters progress through five identifiable stages in

accepting an innovation.13 During the first stage—awareness—adopters have

little information about the innovation. They are passive and are generally

unwilling to seek information. In that stage, change agents should advertise

the innovation, making efforts to attract attention and provide positive information.

In the second stage—self-concern—adopters are more active. They express

concern about how they will be individually affected by a change and pose

questions about the consequences of an innovation. Change agents in this

stage should enact the role of counselor, answering questions and providing

relevant information.

In mental tryout—the third stage—adopters remain active and ask pointed

questions related to their own applications of an innovation. Change agents

should enact the role of demonstrators, providing relevant examples and demonstrating

to adopters how they may apply an innovation to their unique situations.

In hands-on trial—the fourth stage—adopters are interested in learning

how to apply an innovation to their own situations. Their opinions about the

innovation are being formed from personal experience. Change agents should

provide them with training and detailed feedback about how well they are

applying the innovation. Testimonials of success will be persuasive during this

stage, helping to shape the conclusions reached by the adopters about an innovation.

Adoption is the fifth and final stage. By this point adopters have integrated

the innovation into their work and are interested in specific problem solving

that is related to their own applications. Change agents should provide personal

support, help adopters find the resources they need to perform effectively,

and provide rewards for successful implementation.

Applying these stages to the process of obtaining and building management

support for systematic SP&M should be apparent. The appropriate strategies

that change agents should use depend on the stage of acceptance. (See

Exhibit 5-10.)

An important point to bear in mind is that a succession planning program

will be effective only when it enjoys support from its stakeholders. Indeed, the

stakeholders must perform SP&M for it to work. In short, they must own the

process. Hence, obtaining and building management commitment to SP&M is

essential for a systematic program to work.

The Key Role of the CEO in the Succession Effort

The CEO’s role in the SP&M process is the key to success—or failure—in private-

sector organizations. Let me state it clearly: It is a make-or-break role.

While it may seem that CEOs are asked to be ‘‘involved’’ in everything, which

is sometimes interpreted to mean ‘‘give lip service to it and then delegate it,’’

SP&M does not fall in that category. To put it in blunt terms, if the CEO is not

hands-on involved in leading the succession effort, it will fail. SP&M cannot be

just delegated to the HR department, for the simple reason that HR cannot

hold senior executives accountable for talent development in the same way

that the CEO can. Well-known CEOs like former G.E. Chairman Jack Welch

devote much of their time to thinking about, and acting on, succession issues.

Fortunately, several factors have come together to put SP&M on the CEO’s

personal radar screen. One factor is that boards of directors are becoming

more involved with succession. Consider:

Exhibit 5-10. Actions to Build Management Commitment to Succession

Planning and Management

Stage of Acceptance Appropriate Actions

Awareness _ Advertise SP&M to management employees.

_ Provide general information about SP&M.

Self-Concern _ Answer questions.

_ Provide relevant information.

Mental Tryout _ Provide relevant examples of applications of

SP&M policy/practices to specific functions or activities

within the organization.

_ Demonstrate how SP&M may be used in each organizational


Hands-on Trial _ Offer training on SP&M.

_ Meet with top managers individually to discuss SP&M

in their areas.

_ Collect and disseminate testimonials of success.

Adoption _ Provide personal support to top managers on applications

of systematic SP&M.

_ Help program users perform effectively through individualized

feedback and counseling.

_ Identify appropriate rewards for SP&M.

Succession planning has become the second

most important topic discussed by boards.

(Top of the list is making sure that the right

chief executive is in place to begin with.) The

frequency with which chief executives come

and go adds to the pressure. The average

chief executive’s tenure has dwindled in the

past decade from eight years to less than five.

That leaves little time to groom the next generation.

Big companies rarely pick from outside.

To do so is usually a sign that they are in

trouble. For the board, drawing up a succession

plan is a good way to spot future problems.

But there are advantages for the boss,

too. After all, one way to secure a sort of immortality

is to pick one’s own successor. In

most companies, the succession process is

controlled mainly by the chief executive.

However, many CEOs are uncooperative,

partly because they hate the idea of retirement.

Even Disney now listens. Sarah Teslik, executive

director of the Council of Institutional

Investors, a lobbying group, says that she has

demanded for years that Disney draw up a

succession plan, but Michael Eisner, the company’s

domineering CEO, has refused to

allow it. When she talked to senior Disney executives

two months ago, they assured her

that a plan now existed—although they refused

to say what it is. Ms. Teslik thinks that

behavior has been changed by the insistence

in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that boards meet

in ‘‘executive session’’—that is, without the

executives present. ‘‘I personally asked Mr.

Sarbanes for this provision for that purpose,’’

she recalls. ‘‘How can directors talk about

your succession while you are in the room?’’15

A new survey of boardroom practice by Korn/Ferry International, another

search consultancy, finds that only 33 percent of boards had a management

succession committee or process in 2001. By this year, that had leapt to 77


A second factor is that aging senior executives have placed personal pressure

on CEOs to pay attention to succession, lest they find themselves saddled

with the workload of a retiring senior executive while harried HR staff try

to source a qualified replacement. A third factor is that terrorism has made

succession a prudent risk-management issue—one sure to be brought up by

increasingly cautious auditors.

But what exactly should CEOs do? Here are some practical suggestions:

1. Discuss the issue with the board, his or her key reports, and the VP of

HR to decide what succession program would be most desirable for the

organization. Of course, that information can be gathered by an external

consultant—often a good idea—and then handed to the CEO in a

report that recommends actions and next steps.

2. Become familiar enough with issues associated with succession to be

able to discuss the topic intelligently. That includes otherwise arcane

topics—to CEOs at least—such as competency modeling.

3. Insist on an action plan that senior executives can buy into.

4. Hold senior executives accountable for grooming talent in their divisions

and departments, perhaps by changing the executive bonus plan

to put a portion of the bonus at risk for making or not making measurable

goals for talent development.

5. Chair periodic meetings of senior executives to discuss how they are

grooming talent—and especially HiPos—in their areas.

Of course, there is much more that CEOs can do. But they must be convinced

of the importance of SP&M to do anything. Just to provide a basis for reflection,

rate your CEO on his or her role in SP&M, using the simple rating sheet

in Exhibit 5-11.