Purposeful Talent Development: From ‘succession planning’ to ‘succession development’

6 strategies for making the shift

Succession planning involves building a pipeline of future leaders aligned to key roles, to reduce the potential for gaps and loss of institutional knowledge when vacancies occur. Done well, succession planning strengthens leadership teams, offers mobility and growth for high potentials, and demonstrates an organizational commitment to development.

But it is not always done well. And when it’s not, organizations may leave the selection process to a few individuals, which can increase bias and limit the understanding of the organization’s needs. There is also a tendency to select one individual as “the” successor, instead of creating a pipeline of talent that allows more flexibility over time.

The term “succession planning” itself may be creating some of the shortfalls, as it focuses on the plan or process, and not the people. Instead, some organizations are reframing this as “succession development,” which places less weight on individual identification for a role and more importance on building capabilities and experience for the future.


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