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Succession Planning


A Board of Directors must recognize that some jobs are the lifeblood of an organization, are too critical to be left vacant and need to be filled by the best qualified person. Succession planning is critical to the successful delivery of an organization’s mission. It also creates an effective process for recognizing, developing, and retaining top leadership talent.

Collectively, a Board of Directors may meet only a few times annually. Thus it is very unlikely the Board knows all of the tasks that a key leader of the organization (CEO, COO or CAO) performs to ensure survival of the organization. As the organization’s governing body, the Board must have procedures in place to assure a smooth transition from one key leader to another, including:

  • Strong leadership and governance by the Board of Directors and senior management.

  • A strategic plan that conveys the mission, organizational priorities and an action plan to address these priorities.

  • Board-approved personnel policies that are strictly followed on hiring, supervising and firing that are fair, equitable and comply with employment laws.

  • Up-to-date job descriptions that explain the duties and responsibilities for all positions at the organization.

  • An annual calendar of duties and important activities, especially those that are legally required by the organization, which each position performs within the entity.

  • Regular reporting to the Board of trends, highlights and issues key employees face regarding their duties.

  • Formal and written evaluation of employee performance annually.

  • Appropriate compensation for all jobs within the organization.

  • Arrangements with the person to have a temporary replacement while he or she is on vacation. (Also, assure balanced workloads so employees can take vacation time.)

  • Complete listing of all stakeholders. If a key employee leaves or is being replaced, there are stakeholders who will be influenced by a change in senior management. Key stakeholders and senior management get to know each other very well over the years and have developed a comfort level in their relationship.

  • Fiscal policies and procedures are in place and adhered to by the Board and staff. Board and senior staff must assure that the financial statements are correct and are tracked. Sufficient funds must be assured to pay short-term expenses.

  • The Board and key employees should have an annual discussion regarding succession planning including how to manage effectively whether there is an employee extended absence or position vacancy.

Done correctly, succession planning can assure organizational longevity. Conversely, if a succession plan is nonexistent or isn’t followed, it can result in the demise of an organization.

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