Success through Succession: A Review of Recent Literature
Brendan Sweeney, Queen's IRC Post-Doctoral Fellow
In November 2012, Queen's IRC launched a new program, Succession Planning, to an enthusiastic group of practitioners in Calgary. As an ice-breaking exercise, Queen's IRC Director, Paul Juniper, asked participants to discuss their organizations' plans in the event of a sudden loss of key leadership. While the discussion and ideas that came out of this exercise were stimulating and informative, they also confirmed two trends widely noted by practitioners, academics, and policy-makers alike. First, succession planning is increasingly critical to organizations of all sizes and in all industries or sectors. Second, most organizations have given succession planning some thought, but have yet to fully develop and implement an effective plan for the inevitable succession of managers and key employees at all levels.
This research brief complements the IRC's recent focus on succession planning. It does this by providing an overview of contemporary academic perspectives on the need for effective succession plans. This review provides a helpful tool for practitioners and organizations seeking to develop, implement, maintain, or augment a succession plan that meets their organization's specific needs. It includes an overview of effective elements in organizational succession plans, issues related to the succession of key leaders, the transfer of knowledge through succession planning, succession planning relative to the size of an organization, and succession planning in three components of the public sector (municipal administration, education, and health care).
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Taking Change Personally
Brenda Barker Scott, Queen's IRC Facilitator, 2009
A few years ago, under the direction of a new facility manager, the Human Resources Director of a large Canadian oil refinery approached me to complete a whole-systems operational assessment. I advised an alternative approach, suggesting that I facilitate the work of a steering team that would guide this critical effort and design its own set of interventions. While the HR Director was intrigued by the approach, she declined, saying that she had "no time" as the new facility manager wanted the recommendations yesterday. I gave her the names of several consulting firms and the assessment was duly completed.Two years later she called me and reported that none of the consultant's recommendations had been implemented. I asked why, and her answer confirmed a deep truth about enabling change. In essence, she said that because senior managers and key staff were not involved, they did not support the recommendations. Sadly, they had a strategy with no people committed or energized to make it happen.
As this scenario shows, participation matters. At its core, facilitating organizational change is about energizing people to design and execute smart strategies. Whether the change calls for a radical productivity improvement, a breakthrough innovation, or the development of an exceptional customer service culture, the initiative will require people working collectively to invest their heads, hearts, and wills. To do this, change leaders must facilitate a different way of seeing, thinking, and acting that can only be accessed when people are fully engaged in a situation and operating from a place of inspired experimentation.
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The Peer Circle: Holistic Surgery for the Infected Workplace
Richard A. Russell, Queen's IRC Facilitator, 2011
Jean passed the talking piece to Kimberly. You could see her shoulders straighten, a deep intake of breath, a glance around the circle of her assembled colleagues. She was steeling herself to say what was difficult but necessary. Kimberly explained that, for her, the constant putting down of customers and negativity around workplace conditions was unacceptable and made it difficult to enjoy and take pride in her work. She asked that the team demonstrate professionalism toward clients and respect the fact that everyone ought to be able to come to work and expect a reasonably supportive environment.
Kimberly spoke to the middle of the Circle; a message not "pointed at" anyone but offered as her honest experience and request. As the talking piece moved around the room, people contributed their thoughts. Jim said that, while he appreciated Kimberly's point of view, he felt that there were legitimate concerns about how the workplace was being managed and about the tools that were being provided to do the work. It was important to him that he be able to criticize some of the choices being made without being labeled a malcontent.
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