The environment in which organizations operate these days is complex, volatile and difficult to predict. As a result, some organizations may adopt a wait and watch policy and become redundant due to inaction. A smart organization, however, is one that keeps its strategic goals in mind while embracing uncertainty with the aim of finding patterns to ensure continuous action through disciplined decision making.
There has been a drastic change in the world we operate in, since the time when only age used to separate employees from their organizations. More so, the issue was confined to the HR function alone, at best concerning the senior-most executives of the function but limited to a few key positions only. It was only an unplanned activity performed to find a "replacement". There was a high cost involved in finding the right replacement. It used to be time consuming, having an adverse effect on the efficiency of the organization even as it involved the risk of loss of critical knowledge.
Succession planning as a concept has evolved into a strategic initiative, wherein organizations depend on this for enriching their talent pool of top performers at all levels, particularly at crucial positions. It has come a long way from merely being a process of addressing the issue of aging employees or dealing with an unforeseen situation arising out of someone suddenly deciding to change career.
The typical process of succession planning includes the following:
• Identification of key positions
• Identification of key talent
• Assessment of the talent and gap identification
• Creation of a development plan, and
• Monitoring and reviewing progress
Successful organizations that have championed this concept have made succession planning part of their DNA.
I see a great opportunity for CIOs in following the succession planning process in their respective organizations. This paves the way for them to climb up the ladder in their organizations to attain a more strategic position and focus more on strategic goals. A CIO emerges as a stronger contender for a boardroom seat. This also helps a CIO to nurture his team to get involved at a tactical level goal meeting than being involved majorly in operational issues.
Sounds so simple. Isn't it?
But this is easier said than done and the reasons are plenty.
• Given the constraints of operating with minimal resources, is the CIO in a position to plan succession in his team?
• Given the fact that IT today is run in a true hybrid environment with multiple technology flavors, is it possible to create a skill pool in such diverse skill sets?
• Refresh cycle of technology being much faster compared to any other functional skill, does it give the CIO enough bandwidth to effectively plan succession?
• IT has to provide 24/7 operational coverage to business. In times where CIOs can barely manage support, is it possible to have succession planning?
• The training budget is not controlled solely by CIO.
Does it sound a little emotional or too practical? I hope not. I am also reminded of a CEO who once said that "There are millions of reasons why things could not be done but there is only one reason for something to happen." Let me also try to find that one reason by asking some simple questions:
• Have you done enough homework to identify key positions in your team?
• Have you identified the talent in your team?
• Has the talent assessment been done already?
• Have the gaps been identified and is a development plan ready?
• Have you identified what skills / certificates are relevant?
• Do you have sufficient budgetary allocations made for the same?
• Does the monitoring and progress review of the plan happen regularly?
One may say that a CIO alone cannot be held responsible for ineffective succession planning but may I ask who stops us from playing the role of an influencer? Ultimately, it is our responsibility to deal with succession planning at least in our teams, irrespective of the fact that the organization has or does not have a formal succession planning initiative.
Who do you think is the ultimate beneficiary, the organization or the CIO?