Executive Succession Planning

Don’t just replace your departing leader, replicate what makes them uniquely valuable.
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Executive Succession Planning 1

Our succession planning tools are designed to replicate what makes your departing executive uniquely valuable.   Through structured knowledge transfer, we provide practical hands-on facilitation to ease the transition for the successor while reducing the risk to the business. By the end of the process you will have:

  • Defined and captured your departing executive’s secret sauce
  • Transferred knowledge, relationships and soft skills to one or more successors
  • Tested and measured whether the transfer is complete
  • Reduced ramp up time and productivity loss

“Having been through the Knowledge Transfer Workshop as well as the Executive Transitions project plan, I am a firm believer in the process. The Knowledge Silo Matrix is both enlightening and transformative and the Skill Development Plans are extremely useful for years to come.   I’d highly recommend the Trautman team, adding that it’s never too soon to start the succession planning process.” Sheilah Trail Director of HR, ISA

Succession Planning Best Practices

A great many experts have sought to define a fool-proof process for selecting and preparing new leaders who have top talent, particularly when it comes to CEO succession planning. There are variations among these practices, but one common element is the need for training and transfer of critical skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, this is often where companies fall short.

Tremendous effort is put into the selection process, but when it comes to transitions, few organizations have the tools they need to set their new leaders up for success.

executive succession planning


Succession Planning Process

At the Steve Trautman Co. we have developed a structured kt plan designed specifically for leaders who possess not just institutional knowledge, but soft skills and key relationships that are sometimes hard to quantify and pass on. Here’s how we approach it.

Step 1: Define & Prioritize Knowledge Areas

To start, we engage your team in a simple, but highly structured Q&A to identify your departing executive’s unique knowledge areas. Within an hour we can chart these results in a simple matrix, so you can prioritize the knowledge areas that present the highest risk to your business. The prioritization drives what knowledge will be transferred first and to whom. It is often best to work with multiple successors so that the risk is spread across several people.

Step 2: Break Down Priority Areas into Teachable Tasks

Through one-on-one interviews, we get deep into the executive’s valuable tacit knowledge and experience, helping them break down their knowledge areas into specific tasks that can be taught in an hour. From there, we create Skill Development Plans that lay out the tasks in priority order to guide successor(s) as they get up to speed.

Step 3: Transfer Knowledge

Within as little as one or two business days, you gain a thorough plan that effectively uses each available hour between project kickoff and the executive’s last day to transfer high priority knowledge. Execution of the plan may be spread over weeks or months at the discretion of the team and involves structured and highly efficient sessions between the executive and their successors. Our facilitators remain on hand to monitor early sessions and troubleshoot throughout.

Step 4: Test & Measure Knowledge Transfer

We give your team a set of knowledge transfer test questions—a hallmark of our process—that quickly measures whether knowledge was transferred successfully. They reveal if the successor will meet the standard needed to perform independently. We also help the incoming successor develop a list of existing resources (e.g. documentation, contacts, samples, templates, etc.) that will be available after the departing executive’s last day.


Succession Planning Tools

All our clients will have access to our suite tools that have been used to transfer knowledge among thousands of experts and leaders. These tools include our:

  • Knowledge Silo Matrix, which defines the areas where your leader holds critical expertise and helps identify likely successors.
  • Skill Development Plans, which break down a leader’s tacit knowledge and skills into tangible tasks that can be taught in an hour each.
  • KT Test Questions, which confirm that successors have learned necessary skills and measure overall progress.

Details & Logistics


A typical executive knowledge transfer project costs a $25,000 flat fee with no additional expenses.


All work is done remotely via virtual meetings with screen sharing. Requests for in-office time can be accommodated, but are rarely necessary or advantageous.


Setting up a typical executive knowledge transfer project includes 12-15 hours of hands-on work over 1-4 weeks, depending on the urgency and availability of participants. Upon completion, knowledge transfer can begin immediately at whatever pace is appropriate, lasting from 2-52 weeks.


An executive knowledge transfer project can usually be scheduled to start within 7-10 business days. In emergency situations (from surprise or urgent departures), work can often begin in as little as 24 hours.

Participation Requirements

Below are time estimates for those involved in the process. Please note that the time required for actual knowledge transfer is dynamic and depends on how many skills need to be transferred.

  • Executive’s Boss: 3 hours to initiate process, set priorities, select participants, monitor progress, and hold everyone accountable.
  • Executive: 12 hours with facilitator to define and deconstruct their unique areas of expertise and train in fundamentals of successful knowledge transfer.
  • Successor(s): 6 hours to train in the fundamentals of successful knowledge transfer and prep for knowledge transfer sessions.
  • Administrative Support: 2 hours to help with scheduling, technology, and other logistics.

Succession Planning Stories

Executive Transitions

What's Not in the Job Description?

When Alibaba founder and chairman, Jack Ma announced he would resign, investors were nervous and the company’s shares fell in after-hours trading. This is somewhat predictable, even though...
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By By Steve Trautman September 10, 2018

Executive Secret Sauce

Knowledge Transfer for the “Softer Skills”

A few years back, I was talking with the VP of human resources at one of our client companies. We were discussing a knowledge transfer project for one of her company’s top executives who w...
Read More
By By Steve Trautman September 19, 2018

Smarter Succession Planning

Don’t Replace Your Star Executive, Replicate What Makes Them Unique

In April 2016, Disney’s stock price dropped 2% overnight when their COO, Tom Staggs announced his departure from the company. The issue? Tom was the heir apparent for CEO Bob Iger and his ...
Read More
By By Steve Trautman September 11, 2018

Are you ready for quick and clear succession planning?