Create a Succession Plan in Eight Steps

Create a Succession Plan in Eight Steps

I was recently asked by an association president what basic steps he and the executive committee should consider as they create a succession plan that’s effective and simple. There are no plans for the CEO to leave. However, the association has a sound strategic plan and process now in place, so wisely, the association leadership team is looking to put a sound succession plan and process in place as well. That’s a smart thing to do. Let me share with you what I shared with him so that you too can ensure your organization’s top position, and other key positions, are “covered” in unexpected, as well as in anticipated transition situations.

Create a Succession Plan in Eight Steps

  1. Create an Emergency Staffing Plan.

    The easiest way to do this is to simply create an organization chart. For each position – including the top spot – list the current position holder. Then below his/her name, list 1-3 people who could step in to that position to keep things going in the short term. Finally, color code each person’s name to indicate their level of readiness to serve as a back-up if needed: Green = Good to go; Yellow = Could do some but not all of the work / Needs more training and experience; Red = Not ready; Needs immediate training and experience. Do this for every “critical” position, but ideally for all positions, on the organization chart. (This color coded map now also becomes your short-term staff training plan.)

  2. Communicate with each person identified on the chart to let them know for which positions they’ve been identified as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd level backup.

    This tends to automatically cause “the back-ups” to pay better attention to what “the lead” people do.

  3. Determine, specifically, what the CEO and other key positions (ideally all positions) need to be doing 1-3 years from now.

    What specific skills, capabilities, characteristics, etc., will be needed for the positions identified 1-3 years from now?

  4. Update the CEO’s and other position descriptions if needed, based upon what is identified in Step 3 above.

    The position descriptions should be ready for posting and advertising if needed.

  5. Create and document a CEO (or other critical position) Search and Hire Plan.

    Where do you post or advertise the position? What associations or other professional groups will you reach out to during your search? How will you select candidates, interview them, select, hire, on-board, and review performance in the first 30, 60, & 90 days, etc?

  6. Have the current CEO create a Long-Term Staffing plan for the organization each year that supports the organization’s updated strategic plan over the next 1, 2, and 3 years.

    This plan can simply be an organization chart mapped out as you did the Emergency Staffing Plan in Step 1 above. Map out the anticipated positions needed year by year, identify anticipated position holders at those future dates, and include potential back-up people for each spot. Color code all personnel. (There are no guarantees that people identified in the plan will be in or get the positions for which they’ve been identified; this is just a plan. However, this map automatically provides you with your long-term training and development plan to gauge needs, skills, and capabilities along the way.)

  7. Ensure the Board or Executive Team, along with the CEO, reviews and updates the Succession Plan (i.e., Emergency Staffing Plan, CEO position description, Executive Search & Hire Plans, and Long Term Staffing Plan) annually.

    This is done after the organization’s strategic plan has been updated annually so the staffing plans support the initiatives outlined in the strategic plan.

    The most difficult part of any plan is to create it once. After that…,

  8. Work the plan and keep it up-to-date.

    That’s what smart leaders do.

Now it’s your turn to create a succession plan. Are you ready?


Copyright MMXII – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching.


Liz Weber CMC CSP

Liz Weber CMC

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.


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