Business succession planning is crucial to the financial stability of your organization. When done right, a succession plan ensures that no important knowledge is lost with the departure of an expert. It also makes sure the successor can successfully assume the responsibilities required by their new role.


Business Succession Planning Best Practices

Here at The Steve Trautman Co., we have spent over 20 years pioneering advances in succession planning best practices. Our experience has shown that companies that follow these 13 succession planning tips are able to stay profitable and effective during a transition.

1. Create Succession Plans for Technical Roles, Not Only Leadership Positions

When considering who to create succession plans for, many companies stop after the C-suite. This is a critical mistake.

Deep within nearly every corporation are technical employees that hold enough knowledge and responsibility to cause real damage if they were to exit the company. These critical technical employees are called “lynchpin experts” and losing one without a succession plan in place can hurt your company as much as if someone from the C-suite suddenly left.

So when it comes to deciding who to create a succession plan for, look deep within your organization, not just at the obvious positions.

2. Be as Transparent as Possible With Your Succession Plans

Another mistake many companies make is creating their succession plans behind a veil of secrecy. Oftentimes, potential successors don’t even know that they’re being considered for a different role.

A common problem that results from this secrecy is that multiple departments choose the same person as a successor — something none of them realizes until a vacancy opens, the successor goes to fill that role, and all the other departments are left with broken succession plans. To prevent situations like this from happening, be transparent where possible.

3. Train Team Leaders On Succession Planning

Don’t limit succession planning to experts and executives. Train team leaders on succession planning best practices so that they can improve their methods for replacing team members.

Sharing this knowledge throughout the organization results in healthier teams that quickly recover from employee fluctuations.

4. Don’t Let Key Relationships Slip Through Your Succession Plan

It’s easy to focus too much on the technical work that an expert does when sometimes it’s the relationships they have that is the secret sauce to their high performance. When building a succession plan, help your expert identify these key relationships that need to be transferred as part of the succession.

Often, there is no introduction between the person that’s leaving and the person arriving, and this can cause problems for these relationships. Mitigate potential problems by facilitating introductions so that these key relationships aren’t jeopardized.

5. Look Beyond Obvious Successors

Remember that succession planning is people development. Put this into action by preparing people to take over jobs that they’re not yet obvious successors for. Intentionally start growing people further down the ladder so that they are groomed and prepared to take over future roles.

6. Remember to Think Globally About Your Succession Plans

A common mistake is to focus succession plans on positions at the company’s headquarters or mothership. If your corporation has branches around the world, then you need to think globally about your succession plans.

Use knowledge tracking systems, like Steve Trautman Co.’s Knowledge Silo Matrix, to look for lynchpin experts and other succession plan opportunities across all your offices.

7. Be Open to Having More Than One Successor

If you’re replacing an executive or expert who has been promoted multiple times, then it’s likely that the work they do doesn’t fit neatly under one job description. We routinely find that experts like this do an amalgamation of work — a variety of unrelated tasks that they’ve picked up during their time with the company.

It’s almost impossible for a single successor to successfully fill a role like this. To mitigate the risk of failure, be open to replacing the departing expert with 2 or more successors, depending on the complexity of the work. One successor inherits the job title and the work tasks strictly associated with that, while the nonrelated tasks are shaved off and delegated to other successors in your organization.

8. Create Succession Plans For The Company You’ll Be In 1-3 Years

Build your succession plans for the company you’re going to be in 1-3 years. Don’t just ask “who do we have who can step into this role today?” but also, “who do we have who can be prepared to step into this role in 1-3 years?”

9. Plan to “Edit” The Work Being Done By The Outgoing Expert

When it comes to succession planning, an often overlooked strategy is deciding which work you want to stop once your expert is replaced. Take an active role in deciding which knowledge and tasks you want the expert to transfer to their successor.

Are there outdated practices that you would like to retire? Are certain tasks no longer necessary?

Take advantage of the upcoming succession by strategically thinking about the role and ways that you can improve it during the handover.

10. Make Succession Planning Part Of Your Workplace Culture

Instead of relegating succession planning to reactionary meetings every time an executive or expert threatens departure, make succession planning part of your company culture.

By using the best practices shared in this list, you can make succession planning something that is an active presence in your company. This will cultivate a work culture where knowledge transfer is encouraged and succession planning welcomed, making the whole process work better for both departees and successors.

11. Partner With An Expert Succession Planning Firm

If the succession planning in your organization isn’t already acting on most of these tips, then you are leaving room for a variety of problems. To ensure that your succession planning is secure, contact The Steve Trautman Co. today.