Succession planning is one of the many areas that I feel companies have made overly complex. While I’m not an HR person, I have worked with various folks on succession planning, and used a rather simple strategy. Rather than an unwieldy and occasionally convoluted planning process, asking the simple question “if I left tomorrow, who would take my position” is a great start to succession planning, if done regularly.
This simple question accomplishes several things, from narrowing down the list of potential candidates, so identifying perceived weaknesses in those people available to replace you. It may also identify unconventional succession planning opportunities; perhaps someone in a position not normally “in the plan” is particularly strong, and comes to mind instantly when you approach planning from the “if I left tomorrow…” perspective. This can be particularly helpful to getting roles like the CIO “on the map” for transitions to higher-level roles.