Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Succession Planning Strategies

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Transferring the Reins: Ensure Smooth Succession Planning in Times of Change

By Laurel B. Sanders, Optical Image Technology (

Grooming new leaders is challenging. Increasingly it’s causing corporate unease. Executives nationwide are bracing for an unprecedented exodus of experienced leaders. Unfortunately, most aren’t prepared for the impending knowledge loss. Unique conditions are creating anxiety:

... Droves of Baby Boomers leaving the workplace.
... Downsizing and corporate realignments.
... Significant merger and acquisition activity.
... Younger managers favoring career paths over long-term corporate loyalty.

The current corporate landscape is comprised of 78% professional, administrative, technical, and clerical professions.1In federal agencies alone, 70% of senior managers will be eligible to retire by 2010.2 The corporate picture is similar.

Soon, masses of knowledge workers will reach the revolving doors. Before they do, we must establish systems to share institutional knowledge with future leaders and ensure the continuity our businesses need to succeed. If we don’t help our future leaders to fully understand the ‘what,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘how,’ and ‘why’ of the businesses they will direct, costly mistakes will be made. Transferring knowledge is vital.

Tools for change
Business process management (BPM) software is a powerful tool for smooth succession planning. Rules-based software lets you standardize, streamline, and automate routine processes; ensure authorized persons can access work and related files; and provide needed guidance to complete tasks. BPM tackles the challenges of a mobile workforce, managing information efficiently and filling potential gaps between outgoing and incoming leaders and their staff.

1.Enforce organizational hierarchies
As part of an enterprise content management (ECM) system, BPM follows pre-established hierarchies for document approval, signing, and more. New leaders don’t have to worry about anyone overlooking policies, approvals, or required signatures. The watchful eyes of BPM ensure policies are enforced.

2. Ensure processing consistency
BPM syncs business rules with stored document information to automatically prioritize projects, collect approvals, process exceptions appropriately, and more. Intuitive user interfaces simplify task fulfillment, providing instructions at every turn.

3. Assign user rights appropriately
BPM follows institutional rules for file access, giving workers appropriate permissions as they carry out assigned tasks. By pre-determining which workers are authorized to access, annotate, forward, or otherwise interact with documents, customers are treated fairly and consistently. Work moves forward quickly.

4.Leverage information enterprise-wide
It takes time to comprehend the unique interrelationship of business processes when employees assume new positions. BPM respects institutional rules, securely pushing and pulling information across the enterprise wherever it’s useful ― accounting to HR, claims to policy servicing, contracts to payroll ― and maximizing information usefulness.

5.Address performance weaknesses
Productivity reporting gives managers valuable insight into incoming requests and employee output. Work is allocated or reassigned according to workload, project priority, absenteeism, and more. Leaders gain needed agility and can respond appropriately to changing conditions.

Plan for success
Long-term success requires careful planning. Avert future chaos and disaster by starting your knowledge transfer now. The approaching exodus can’t be stopped, but by putting the systems and information in place that your future leaders will need, you can ensure a smooth transition. Your company will be positioned to thrive in the face of change.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics website,
2 HR Magazine, December 2007, “Plugging the Boomer Drain.”

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