In business, there are many things that can be done more effectively if you plan to do them well in advance. This is one of the reasons why strategic planning (when done well) is such an effective management tool. Succession planning is certainly one of those activities, and here's why - if you spend some time observing successor candidates and involve them in your strategic planning, you get two huge benefits. First, you get a better understanding of how the successor fits with the overall strategy and culture of the organization. Secondly, the successor gets a good look at how strategic thinking works while the outgoing executive is still in place.
Here are a few tips from successful transitions that I have seen in the past 20 years:
1. Start early! It's never too soon to think about transition.
2. Don't dwell on the weaknesses of candidates...almost always, other people can handle the things they can't, but DO look for candidates with big strengths in key areas.
3. Involve internal candidates in your strategic planning as soon as you can.
4. Use vacations and other absences to give candidates time "in your shoes"
5. Mentor the candidate positively - I've seen really good successor candidates abruptly leave companies because they were negatively mentored.
6. Help the candidates get a good sense of their own strengths and weaknesses as managers
7. Start working on professional development for the successor as soon as you can
8. If you see a big red flag come up on any candidate be willing to try another candidate
strategic+planning strategic+planning+process management business, succession+planning